Manual paper towel dispensers feature an exterior mechanism that controls product output. Typically a lever, this mechanism must be ADA-compliant and not require intense physical strain to operate. Manual dispensers are generally more affordable than alternative options and don't require any technical elements to function properly. However, the exterior mechanisms are quite vulnerable to damage and vandalism, requiring frequent maintenance and repairs. Additionally, manual dispensers feature a shared surface that supports cross-contamination of bacteria through building occupants. As such, these specific products are most applicable in smaller commercial restrooms for private offices and businesses or as a backup to automatic units.
Unlike manual dispensers, automatic units don't require an exterior mechanism for proper functionality. Instead, these paper towel holders feature touch or touch-free sensors that dispense pre-programmed amounts of paper towels. As such, an automatic commercial paper towel holder lacks common surfaces and is more hygienic than a manual alternative. Of course, these dispensers demand technical elements to function properly, such as wiring or batteries. Thankfully, many automatic units feature an indicator light to alert custodial staff when it's time to replace the battery power. Furthermore, the ability to pre-program dispensed paper towel amounts also makes automatic dispensers a highly economical option!
Center-pull paper towel dispensers function similarly to manual units but lack an exterior mechanism. Rather, users operate these paper towel holders by pulling down on the roll of paper towels themselves. This design is far easier to maintain and less damage-prone than manual alternatives, which is ideal for high-traffic commercial restrooms. You can find center-pull dispensers in airports, stadiums, and other large public spaces.
Despite what their name might suggest, combo paper towel dispensers are not manual or automatic hybrid products. Rather, these fixtures feature built-in (often recessed) trash bins directly beneath the paper towel supply. This design encourages a more hygienic and orderly restroom environment that's ideal for school lavatories and other high-traffic facilities.