Hands wet, should you go for the paper towels or the hand dryer?

handwashingYou’ve just finished diligently and thoroughly washing your hands in a public restroom and you’re presented with this choice: paper towels or hand dryer. Which one is better?

It depends on what you’re more worried about.

When it comes to hygiene, paper towels win out.

That’s because when people use hand dryers they usually give up before their hands are actually dry. Since bacteria spreads more easily on wet skin than dry skin, not drying your hands properly is a problem, especially if you use those damp hands to open the bathroom door.

Mayo Clinic researchers actually reviewed a slew of studies published from 1970 to 2011 that looked at the hand-drying effectiveness of paper towels versus air dryers.

The conclusion was definitive: “Paper towels can dry hands efficiently, remove bacteria effectively, and cause less contamination of the washroom environment. From a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers.

And here’s another problem: Hot air dryers might actually disperse bacteria, much like toilets do when they’re flushed.

So why would anyone even consider hand dryers?

Well, because they’re significantly more economical than paper towels and more environmentally-friendly. A hand dryer doesn’t require constant stocking, and it doesn’t send piles of paper towels to landfills.

Before you choose your side, you might consider the middle ground. For one, if you use paper towels, use them wisely. Grab what you need, but not more.

And if you go for that hot air dryer, remember to dry your hands completely. Give yourself about 20 to 30 seconds. Count off in your head and, whatever you do, don’t fall for the temptation of drying those hands on your jeans.

One comment

  • This is a question most people have, especially in public restrooms that have both. I’ve always preferred paper towels because they do make my hands dry. Also, I wonder if the heated dryer will make my skin parched by keeping my hands under it long enough to get them dried.


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