Are Paper Towels or Air Dryers More Sanitary?

When given a choice between using paper towels or air dryers after washing their hands, people might be better off using paper towels. The evidence isn't conclusive, but using paper towels might be more sanitary than using jet air dryers. Some experts say that the dryers release bacteria-laden air, and that people who use the dryers are simply getting a coating of microbes on their clean hands. Others say that an air dryer's effectiveness depends on the length of time that a person holds his or her hands under its nozzle. A minute or more might be necessary to dry and sanitize the hands.

More about hand washing and drying:

  • Some public health experts believe that efforts to teach people to wash their hands properly should include training in effectively drying their hands as well.

  • One problem with air dryers is that people typically rub their hands together under the hot air stream. This can cause additional bacteria to escape from the skin's pores and contaminate the hands.

  • Neither method of hand drying has any impact on the many people who simply don't wash up after using the toilet. According to one study, 30% of people who used the restrooms in a New York airport did not wash their hands.

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Discussion Comments


Speaking of hand washing, a few years ago, I remember working in the college cafeteria on a day to day basis. However, during out training, we had to watch a ten minute video on how to wash our hands. Even though it was incredibly awkward to watch, it did a good job at showing just how important hand washing is. It's really something that we should try to make a habit.


When people see those signs in the bathroom that remind others to wash their hands, some may think it's not that big of a deal. However, you'd be quite surprised at the amount of people who don't wash their hands. The third bullet point even mentions that thirty percent of New Yorkers don't wash up when they're finished in the bathroom. Why do you think this is? My guess is that because it's such an easy thing to do, people don't think about it that often, and they don't consider the sanitation risks that factor in. On a final note, there are those who do "wash" their hands, per se, but it's so quick, that it might as well not even be considered. I have been guilty of this, but I've also learned to outgrow it.


Well, this is very interesting. For most of my life, I have been told that using the jet dryers in the bathroom are more beneficial the paper towels, especially since you're saving energy and whatnot. However, this doesn't seem to be the case here. It really goes to show that though there are many ways to dry or clean your hands, not all of them are affective. So I guess that every time I've been to the mall or movies, the air dryers have put a coat of microbes on my hands? I will make sure to use paper towels much more often, as that method seems quite more beneficial. Overall, a very informative article.

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