North American Tissue News

Hand dryers or paper towels: what is the best option?

Paper towels are much more hygienic and safer than hand dryers

Washing your hands properly has always been important, and the pandemic has aroused collective awareness about the importance of washing your hands correctly and more often than usual. Proper hand hygiene is of utmost importance to reduce contamination and infections.

Much is said about the correct way to wash your hands, but a new study also suggests that the method used to dry your hands may be just as important to public health.

According to a pilot study published on March 17, 2021 in “Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology”, the use of high-speed hand dryers can also transfer germs to a person’s clothing and lead to an increase in spread of these contaminants to other surfaces.

To better understand the impact of hand drying on hand hygiene, the researchers conducted an experiment to learn the role of different hand drying methods in spreading badly washed hand germs beyond the bathroom.

During the study, the volunteers dried their hands with a hand dryer or paper towels while wearing an apron to test whether any contaminants had spread to their clothes and then walked several paths around a hospital and touched the surfaces commonly used, such as elevator buttons, for example.

The researchers also observed a greater microbial transfer to the apron when the volunteers used the air dryer. The transfer of microbes to the volunteers’ clothes after using the air dryer also contributed to the spread of germs.

“Based on the user and surface contamination observed following hand drying using high-speed air dryers, we question the choice of air dryers in healthcare settings,” said Ines Moura, a research fellow at the University of Leeds and an author on the study.

On average, the levels of germ spread on the surfaces touched by the volunteers were 10 times higher after the hands were dried with the dryer than with paper towels. The researchers also observed greater microbial transfer to the apron when the volunteers used the dryer, which further contributed to the spread of germs.

According to USA TODAY, the results are consistent with previous studies on hand dryers which include recommendations that “only paper towels should be used in situations where hygiene is paramount,” such as hospitals, said Timothy Caulfield, research director at the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.

After these studies, the question remains as to why these dryers are still commonly found in public bathrooms.

“I think the move to hand dryers has been driven by many things, including cost, environmental concerns and, paradoxically, the public health push to get more people to wash their hands,” Caulfied told USA TODAY.

Cambridge University Press and USA TODAY
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