Restroom Paper Towels Verses Hot Air Dryers

There has been a long debate over the use of hot air dryers versus paper towel dispensers and their effectiveness when drying your hands in a public restroom. At first glance, hand dryers might appear to be the better option. They seem hygienic and all that air feels like it’s really drying your hands. However, this is actually far from the truth. 

It may come as a surprise but the most sanitary option would be the use of paper towels. They generate the lowest spread of germs from your hands to clean objects and surfaces you might come into contact with.

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It’s important to remember just how crucial it is to wash and dry your hands properly after using the restroom. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it’s recommended that we wash our hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them properly afterward. 

This is the most effective way to limit the spread of infection and illness. Most people, however, don’t actually wash their hands correctly or long enough to kill bacteria. Mix that with air drying your hands too fast, leaving them damp, and you’re in trouble. 

  • Paper towels decrease bacteria by 45%.
  • Hot air dryers increase bacteria by 225%

Air Dryers and Bacteria

The biggest argument against hand air dryers is what happens when you turn them on.  According to a study published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology Journals.  Hand dryers basically suck up the bacteria in the air of the bathroom and deposit it right onto your recently washed hands. These germs don’t come from the air dryer itself but from the actual air in the bathroom. 

Unfortunately, when lidless toilets (a common finding in public bathrooms) are flushed, it aerosolizes a mist of microbes and toilet water particles, swishing them up into the air in a process known as toilet plume. This isn’t the only reason why air dryers are found to be less hygienic. A lot of time, people are in a rush and aren’t willing to wait around to let their hands dry completely before walking out.

Not Dry Enough

Understandably, many people want to quickly get in and out of the restroom. They wash and rinse their hands in a few seconds and also dry their hands too quickly if they dry them at all. But they were just washed so they’re clean, right? The truth is that if you’re not thoroughly drying your hands after washing them, it makes it easier for microbes to transfer from the wet skin of your hands to whatever you touch. 

When your hands are completely dry, germs have a harder time passing from contact because they have less of a chance of survival on dry surfaces. For some, it might also make sense to speed up the process by rubbing your hands together while air drying them but doing so actually introduces more bacteria because you’re bringing to the surface what was under your skin.

Paper Towels

With all the evidence and research piling up against hand dryers, there’s no longer a debate over which option is the most sanitary. Paper towels allow you to dry your hands properly. They remove the most bacteria and spread the fewest amount of microbes into the surrounding bathroom environment.  

Personal Preference

While not the most important factor, personal preference does reveal some interesting info.

  • 1 in 3 people prefers hot air dryers. The remaining 2 out of 3 prefer paper towels.
  • Winner: Paper towels

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