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Are Paper Towels More Sanitary Than Hand Dryers?

Are Paper Towels More Sanitary Than Hand Dryers?

There is a misconception that hand dryers are sanitary because they’re no touch. It’s really not true. 

Part of the reason that’s not true is because people don’t do a good job of drying their hands while using a hand dryer, which is a huge part of hand washing hygiene. 

Studies have examined the average amount of time people use a hand dryer for after hand washing, and it’s about 30 seconds. What do you think is the required minimum for how long you need to hold your hands under a hand dryer? 60 seconds. 

That’s right, on average, people only use hand dryers for half as long as they should be. 

You may be wondering how this is unsanitary. Even though the person using the hand dryer has already washed their hands, bacteria still thrives on wet surfaces, leaving them prone to bacterial growth. 

Paper towels, on the other hand, do a far more effective job of removing moisture. In fact, the physical act of rubbing your hands with paper towels actually kills germs that weren’t removed after washing. 

When people don’t fully dry their hands, they’re more prone to spreading bacteria. As a matter of fact, wet hands are capable of spreading 1000 times more bacteria than dry hands.

But we can’t fault air dryers just because people don’t use them long enough. 

No, instead, here are three great reasons to fault hand dryers.

3 Reasons Why Paper Towels Are Better for Hand Hygiene

Our experts have come up with the following reasons: 

  1. Hand Dryers Blow Bacteria onto Your Clean Hands
  2. Hand Dryers Dry Your Hands by Sending Water and Bacteria into the Air
  3. Paper Towel Dispensers are Increasingly Becoming No-Touch

Let’s break them down. 

Hand Dryers Blow Bacteria onto Your Clean Hands

Just when you thought your hands were clean, hand dryers are actually blowing bacteria directly onto them. 

Where does all the bacteria come from, you may be wondering? The bathroom. Air dryers take the air from the bathroom and use that same air to dry your hands.

Did you know that every time an uncovered toilet is flushed it sends out a fecal cloud that disperses across 65 sq. ft.?

That means if the hand dryer you’re using is within 65 sq. ft. of a toilet, it’s using that air. 

So it should come as no surprise that after using an air dryer the bacteria count on your hands rises sharply.

Studies on hand washing hygiene have compared how much the germ count rises on a person’s hands after they use a hand dryer vs. paper towels. One such study shows an increased germ count of up to 42%. 

If you think that’s bad, for hot air dryers, the figure rises to 194%.

And if you think that’s bad, you’re going to hate this next reason. 

Hand Dryers Dry Your Hands by Sending Water and Bacteria into the Air

Paper towels leave your hand almost completely dry by absorbing the water from them. Hand dryers, on the other hand, dry your hands by blasting the water off of them using warm or strong air. 

Remember that statistic from earlier? It takes a minimum of 60 seconds to adequately dry your hands with an air dryer. Meanwhile, using a paper towel for as little as ten seconds will remove up to 90% of the moisture from your hand, while also decreasing the amount of germs by up to 77%.

Hand dryers send water, and any germs or bacteria that’s on your hands, up and into the air. Now, instead of being on your hands, the bacteria circulates around the bathroom, landing on various surfaces. 

Instead of removing the germs, air dryers spread the germs elsewhere for other people to pick up. That’s called cross contamination, and it’s one of the most effective ways to spread germs across an environment. 

One study on this topic found that, after using a jet dryer, the average surface contamination after being touched was over 10 times higher than if it would have been had paper towels been used. Another study examined the surface of the hand dryer itself, finding contamination levels 75 times higher than the average toilet seat. 

Now that we’ve shown you how unsanitary hand dryers really are it’s time to take down one more talking point often used to promote hand dryers. 

Paper Towel Dispensers are Increasingly Becoming No-Touch

Often, you’ll see hand dryers advertised as a solution to cross contamination.

The idea is that if there’s no-touch, then it reduces cross contamination. We already know that this isn’t true because hand dryers blow germs from your hand all over the room, but that’s not the only reason it’s a poor selling point. 

Increasingly, paper towel dispensers are becoming no-touch. Once a novelty, no-touch technology has been commercially available for a while now. The COVID-19 Pandemic helped to usher no-touch technology into many products that previously required touch, like paper towel dispensers. 

Unlike hand dryers, paper towel dispensers are no-touch devices that deliver on their promise to remove germs and bacteria from your hands while drying them. 

Paper towels are actually able to combat the spread of germs because they’re so effective at removing moisture and bacteria from your hands. Just the physical act of rubbing your hands with a paper towel alone removes bacteria and moisture, unlike air dryers.

Are Paper Towels More Sanitary Than Hand Dryers?

The short answer is yes. 

Hand dryers are one of the least sanitary methods of maintaining hand hygiene. There’s no other way to look at it. 

Regardless of whether you compare paper towels to hand dryers, hot air dryers, or jet air dryers, it doesn’t matter, paper towels will always be more sanitary, and effective, every time. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, hand dryers are not only spewing bacteria onto your hands, but they’re also putting it in the air, and on any surface that air touches, promoting cross contamination and the spread of germs. 

Paper towels, meanwhile, remove moisture from your hands while also reducing the amount of germs that are present. 

At the end of the day, paper towels just plain beat hand dryers. With the wide variety of sustainable options for paper towels, there’s really no downside to swapping out those hand dryers.

If you want to make the switch but you’re not sure where to start, consider starting with us. 

At Imperial Dade, we offer a full line of hand hygiene products including innovative paper towel dispensing systems, hand soaps, and sanitizers.

Reach out to an Imperial Dade location near you and take advantage of our unparalleled services, training, and products, to help keep your restrooms clean and safe.

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