Use Paper Towels Instead Of Hand Dryers For Better Hygiene

Hand dryers sell you on how hygienic they since you usually don't need to touch them. However, a recent study suggests that paper towels are in fact the more hygienic choice.

Picture: Nick Gray/Flickr

The study, published by the Mayo Clinic last August, is a review of 12 other studies published since 1970. The result? Paper towels help fight more bacteria, thanks to friction.

The differences in bacterial numbers after drying with air dryers and paper towels could be due to other factors rather than the percentage of dryness alone. Friction can dislodge microorganisms from the skin surface during both hand washing and drying. Antimicrobial agents in soaps have too little contact time to have bactericidal effects during a single use or with sporadic washings, making friction the most important element in hand drying.

That doesn't mean you should swear off all air dryers — sometimes there just isn't any paper around. But if you're somewhere hygiene is particularly important, such as a hospital or a school, choosing to dry your hands with paper towels could be a worthwhile precaution.

The Hygienic Efficacy of Different Hand-Drying Methods: A Review of the Evidence [Mayo Clinic Proceedings via Conversable Economist]


    On a side note, I often wonder which method is less damaging to the environment. Electricity vs [recycled?] paper.

    Last edited 18/12/12 9:11 am

      This is what I actually think about. It seems disgustingly wasteful when I use a paper towel for 2 seconds and then throw it away because it is wet.

    Dr Karl knew this a year ago:

    Alternatively, we could not stress so much about bacteria, allow our bodies to develop normal, proper immune systems, and be healthier in the long run. Germ/bacteria paranoia and excessive cleanliness gradually turns immunity from an automatic response to a manual one, which isn't a good thing.

    Nothing wrong with wiping your hands on your trousers...

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