Paper Towels vs. Hand dryers

Paper towels vs hot air dryers - this may seem like a discussion that doesn’t rate as important in the grand scheme of things until we consider the fact that wet hands help spread bacteria.  A scary thought, particularly in places where people may be more vulnerable than usual, such as hospitals and care homes, but equally in our homes and places of work.  The importance of making the right choice is then far more evident. 

Research conducted by the Queensland University of Technology reviewed 12 studies on the hygienic effectiveness of hand drying methods and reported that overall hot air dryers were found to be less effective than paper towels. The report stated that “A hand dryer takes 30 seconds longer to achieve about the same dryness as a towel and this is important because most people spend less than 20 seconds drying their hands in a washroom”. It was also reported that paper towels removed more bacteria from the hands.  It can be argued that hot air dryers are an expensive product to invest in but, other than any maintenance and repairs, they are a one-off cost as opposed to the necessity for purchasing paper towels on a regular basis. However, towels are easily obtainable at very reasonable prices.  There are also different qualities of towel from specialist suppliers for different purposes.

Considering the environment

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology compared seven of the most common forms of hand drying methods and concluded that paper towels and hot air dryers both had the highest environmental toll.  They found that the environmental impact of recycled towels included their effect on landfill sites and that overall their use produced higher levels of carbon emissions. On the other hand the Dyson Airblade hand dryers created some waste and consumed more energy and water.  The fact is that both choices have an effect on the environment.  Both produce carbon emissions in their production and it can be argued that hot air dryers can be produce a high level of noise.  However, overall it would seem that most research indicates that some hot air dryers have a lower negative impact on the environment.

Cross Contamination

Cross contamination also has to be borne in mind in any argument about hand drying.  Studies have shown that hot air dryers are actually less effective at removing bacteria that has not been removed from hands during the washing process.  How many of us actually use the dryers to dry our hands effectively in this busy world of ours?  We just have to think how many times we have witnessed people using dryers for only a few seconds and then drying their hands on their clothes as they leave public washrooms. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds and the microbiology department at Leeds General Infirmary looked at air samples and cross contamination levels between volunteers who took part in the tests.  The researchers found that the counts for lactobacillus were higher for jet dryers and hot air dryers than for paper towels.

It would appear from the multitude of studies conducted that the debate about paper towels vs hand dryers will continue.  However, there can be little doubt that the paper towel does the job of hand drying and removing bacteria far more efficiently in the eyes of most studies conducted by health workers, which is definitely something to take into account when making a choice.

If you’re looking to buy washroom supplies such as paper towels to ensure your home or workplace remain hygienic, look to a professional supplier of cleaning supplies such as System Hygiene.