Paper Towels Or Hand Dryers – How to Remain Hygienic In A Public Bathroom

With 80% of infection being spread from the hands, the act of drying your hands is an essential part of the handwashing process, as the spread of bacteria greatly increases with wet skin rather than dry skin. But which is better? Some public bathrooms have electric hand dryers, others just paper towels, and plenty have both. But which is more hygienic? Don’t fear, we are here to help.

So why are we debating about it?

Sometimes we don’t have an option as to what methods we dry our hands with. However, when faced with the option, most people have wondered what is the most hygienic method. Paper towels are certainly the most efficient, whereas hand dryers appear to be the most cost effective and environmentally friendly. But which one is the most hygienic?

A few years ago, a scientist named Dr. Cunrui Huang, from the Queensland University of Technology, decided to find out the answer. He carried out a review of 12 studies evaluating how efficient these methods were at the removal of bacteria. As it turns out, the winner was Paper Towels.

Why is this?

This is largely based on two factors:

  • It removes more bacteria in a shorter amount of time

  • It physically removes the bacteria

Factor 1: How long does it take to dry your hands

With paper towels, one of the studies found that residual water on that hands reduced to just 1 per cent after 15 seconds. This is a stark contrast with hot air dryers that leave 3 per cent of residual water on the hands after 45 seconds.

This difference of 30 seconds becomes even more significant when compared with another one of the studies which found that on average people don’t generally dry that hands for much longer than 20 seconds.

This is why drying hands with paper towels is less likely to carry less bacteria. This means a lower risk of illnesses and the prevention of ccross-contamination due to wet skin; which is important during these cold months.

Factor 2: The Physical Removal of Bacteria

As well as being able to dry your hands in a shorter amount of time, the actual motion of drying your hands with a paper towel and the friction that comes with it physically removes the bacteria. This is another large contrast to standard hot air dryers, which can blow organisms up to a foot into the air!

What do the public prefer?

According to the study, the public prefer paper towels to hand dryers. It showed that 55 – 64% of bathroom users preferred paper towels, compared to a mere 28% who preferred hand dryers.

Why is drying your hands important?

Whatever method you have available to you, drying your hands properly is imperative, as damp hands can spread more than 1000x more bacteria than dry hands. If you are ever unsure whether you have thoroughly cleaned your hands, it’s always a good idea to carry around antibacterial hand wipes or a small bottle of hand bacterial gel, which can be used anywhere, even on public transport.

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