Industrial Maintenance Supplies (Leics) Ltd
Paper Towels V Hand Dryers
The turbocharged high-speed air dryer in the bathroom may look cool, but if germ-killing power is your priority, you might want to skip the futuristic blower and go for the low-tech classic instead: paper towels.
There are a few reasons why towel-drying may leave you more germ-free:
Germs thrive in moisture, so the dryer your hands get, the fewer germs will survive.
Paper towels force you to spend longer drying your hands, which always gets them cleaner.
The rougher rubbing necessary to dry your hands with paper towels literally exfoliates germs that are buried deep in your pores.
In a 2008 study, University of Westminster researchers compared paper towels with "jet air dryers" – specifically the Dyson Airblade, which involves placing your hands into toaster-like slots, and drawing them out slowly through the intense airflow – in addition to standard "warm air dryers," the gentler kind most commonly seen. In the study, both the jet air dryers and paper towels dried hands four times faster than the warm air dryer.
However, the paper towels were the most efficient at reducing germs on the skin. In fact, air dryers both, on average, increased the amount of germs on the skin.
The researchers recommended paper towels for use in places where hygiene is most important, such as hospitals, which seems to suggest that they are the safest bet for anyone looking for the cleanest possible hands.
The results echoed an earlier study from the Mayo Clinic, which found that when drying hands between 15 seconds with a paper towel and 30 seconds with a warm-air dryer (a typical cycle), the reductions in bacteria were comparable. The study suggested that it wasn't the method, but the length of time spent drying hands that contributed most to cleanliness.
Even a study commissioned by Dyson from the University of Bradford found that rubbing your hands under an air dryer can completely defeat the purpose of washing them to begin with. The study said that it is best to use the jet dryer that does the job fastest with the least hand rubbing, but also said that paper towels are equally effective.
"The most hygienic method of drying hands is using paper towels or using a hand dryer which doesn't require rubbing your hands together," the study in question said.
The bottom line is that paper towels are your best bet. But if you have to use an air dryer, you simply have to use it correctly. It's true that air dryers are environmentally friendly – producing no waste – and the jet-powered ones, as the Westminster study showed, are equally effective at drying your hands as paper towels, even if they're not quite as effective at killing germs.
But since dry hands are the first step in deterring germs, take note of how to do it right: rather than rubbing or clapping, hold your hands still, palms up, for at least 30 seconds and as long as possible. Also, let your hands get as dry as you can, and don't wipe them on your clothes.
And try to avoid touching the bathroom door handle with your bare hand – use a paper towel to cover it, or shoulder it open. No matter how you dried your hands, touching the door handle is a sure-fire way to get them dirty again.