Hand dryer vs. paper towel

If you ever wondered one seconds after hand washing to use the paper towel or the hand dryer, after this article you would definitely vote for the paper towel. Although the production of paper towels has a negative environment impact, it plays an important role in our health preserving. 

Cunrui Huang, a biomedical scientists at Queensland University of Technology, took a closer look at the efficacy of the electornic hand dryers compered with the paper towels. Huang included 12 studies from PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science that focused on the effectiveness of various hand-drying methods. Hand-drying efficiency was defined by the speed of drying, degree of dryness, effective removal of bacteria, and prevention of cross-contamination.

Hot-air dryers
A standard hand-dryer takes 30 seconds longer than a towel. This time difference is important: wet hands support and transmit more bacteria. “But rubbing hands while under hot-air dryers leads to greater bacterial numbers and airborne dissemination,” Huang warns. “It might be that rubbing hands causes bacteria to migrate from hair follicles to the skin surface.”

Jet-air dryers
Jet-style dryers are fast: ten seconds of being blasted with one is more effective than 30 seconds under a conventional dryer. But they lead to greater contamination of the toilet, as they can disperse bacteria further. The air nozzles in hand dryers provide a perfect warm, moist environment for bacterial growth.And they’re noisy: “In washrooms with jet air dryers, the noise level could constitute a potential risk to those exposed to it for long periods,” says Huang.

Paper towels
The clear winners when it comes to hygienic hand-drying, paper towels attain a dryness of 99 per cent after 15 seconds’ drying time, or 90 per cent after ten seconds, according to two of the studies reviewed. Paper towels are also easy to recycle. “Hand hygiene adherence would possibly decrease if paper towels are not available in washrooms.” summarizes Huang.

Conclusion of the study:

  • Because the transmission of bacteria is more likely to occur from wet skin than from dry skin, the proper drying of hands after washing should be an essential component of hand hygiene procedures.
  • From a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers.
  • Drying hands thoroughly with single-use, disposable paper towels is the preferred method of hand drying in health care.
  • The provision of paper towels should be considered as a means of improving hand hygiene adherence among health care workers.