Hand Dryers Vs. Paper Towels: Which Spreads More Germs?


In life there are many choices you have to make. Pepsi or Coke? Toilet paper over or under? Team Jacob or Edward? But along with all of the tough choices you will make as a human being there will always be the ever looming decision in most public restroom: hand dryer or paper towels?

Now with the environment going the way it is and the cost of paper ever increasing many businesses and public agencies have gone to hand dryers. Now the plus side to hand dryers is rather straight forward, they save money and space. But have you ever thought about the particles that the fancy hair dryer is blowing into the air? We are dealing with fecal bacteria after all.

A study done by the University of Leeds showed that airborne germ counts are 27 times higher around air dryers than around paper towel dispensers. 27 times!

To mimic the bacteria that you would see in the common restroom the researchers smeared the participants hands with a harmless bacteria and measured the air around the drying appliances from a distance of one and two meters. They found that the bacterial count around jet air dryers were 4.5 times higher than paper towel dispensers and warm air dryers left 27 times more bacteria than paper towel dispensers. Not only did the air dryers spread the bacteria into the air but half of the bacteria could still be detected five minutes after drying (the bacteria was still detectable even fifteen minutes later.)

Wait, if you wash your hands correctly you won’t have anything to worry about right? Well yes, if you wash your hands for the recommended twenty seconds with soap and running water you will do your part in not spreading bacteria. But what about the rest of the people who used the restroom before you? A study by Michigan State University camped out in public restrooms and found that 95 percent of people did not wash their hands properly. Fifteen percent of men did not wash at all compared to seven percent of woman, and when they did wash fifty percent of men used soap compared to 79 percent of woman. More on this topic can be found here.

So next time you go into a public restroom with an air dryer remember to stay away, not only does that mean that harmful bacteria is lurking in the air but the people who used the air dryer also touched the door knob on the way out. Yuck.

Now the air dryer Vs. paper towel debate has been going on for many years, each side with their pros and cons. The only decision  on the matter that has been made is that  patrons need to be offered with a choice when drying their hands. This leaves neutral ground for the people who try to avoid hand dryers and the owners of the establishments who are trying to save money.

AsapSCIENCE made a video about the long heated debate, you can watch it here.

What do you prefer hand dryers or paper towels?

Happy Discovery  


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