In the kitchen of the place where I work, there is a note next to the paper towel dispenser:
- Sparsam verwenden! (use economically)
- nur zum Hände abtrocknen (only to dry hands)
- nicht das Geschirr abtrocknen (do not use to dry dishes)
where the English version is also attached on the note (in brackets). I am not sure if it was hung there by a native speaker, as I have some doubts to the correctness of the above. These just sound wrong to me, and based on the rules I have been learning - could be structured incorrectly.
Let me start from the second bullet point - if this is interpreted as Imperativ (Sie) due to abtrocknen starting with a small letter, I think it should read e.x.
- nur die Hände abtrocknen, or better, proper Imperativ style
- abtrocknen nur die Hände
In other words, zum should not appear there at all.
On the other hand, if zum is to remain, then consistent with the Dativ declension, it suggests that abtrocknen appears there as a nominalised Infinitive, therefore as das Abtrocknen. In this case, it would need to appear together with Hände like the following:
- nur zum Händeabtrocknen
Alternatively, if zum is to be used:
- nur zum Abtrocknen/Trocknen der Hände
The third bullet point also looks weird to me. I would write it as:
- Abtrocknen das Geschirr (damit) nicht (Imperative style)
or, following the zum style of the previous bullet point
- nicht zum Geschirrabtrocken / nicht zum Abtrocknen des Geschirr(e)s
I would be grateful if you could comment whether my observations hold and additionally, if the replacements I'm suggesting (1-6) could work.