BUNZL Cleaning & Hygiene Supplies Blog

Hot Air Hand Dryers Vs Paper Towels: Which Has The Upper Hand? [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you gravitate towards using a hot air hand dryer after washing your hands in a public washroom, you might think twice once you’ve discovered that warm and jet air dryers are not always an effective choice for removing microbes.

Hand dryer vs hand towels

Despite greater awareness regarding the importance of good hand hygiene, The European Tissue Symposium (ETS) has discovered in their November 2015 Position Paper that most people do not understand what the optimal method of drying the hands is; absorbent single use towels. A more shocking revelation is that these air based dryers can actually increase the number of micro-organisms on the hands after drying!

The ETS are not alone with their findings; The Hygienic Efficacy of Different Hand-Drying Methods paper concluded from their work that from a “hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electronic air dryers”.

Take a look at our infographic below for a recap of scientific research; you’ll no longer be filled with hot air!


Why Are Paper Hand Towels a More Hygienic Choice?

We are aware that keeping hands clean is the one of the most important steps we can take to avoid sickness and spreading microorganisms in the environment, strongly backed by the World Health Organisation. However, hand washing alone will not be effective in removing an optimum number of microbes; we must carry out effective drying techniques.

ETS believes that clean and absorbent single use towels, for example paper hand towels, are the best solution for drying hands, as the skin must be thoroughly dried after washing to remove any remaining water droplets containing microbes. In fact, physical tests have demonstrated that paper towels can absorb up to nine times their own weight in moisture! Friction generated by rubbing hands against a towel with high absorption qualities also plays an important factor in reducing the microbial loads on the hands.

Hot Air Dryers and Contamination

Following findings that hot and jet air dryers can actually increase the number of micro-organisms on the hands after washing, Marc Van Ranst, professor in virology and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Leuven in Belgium, has discovered,

“There is an increased level of microbial contamination on and beneath air driers, particularly jet air driers. These findings have implications for the prevention of spread of microbes and infections and could result in reduced illness and time off sick and so ultimately provide economic benefit too.”

Deb Group puts Marc Van Ranst’s discovery into a shocking everyday context – every time a toilet is flushed, a fine aerosol mist can be sprayed into the air. This mist may contain types of faecal bacteria that can cause diseases as the bacteria can be inhaled or deposited on a person’s body or clothes making them a potential mobile source of infection.

Air dryers aren’t always the most practical option either, with some only allowing for only one user at a time and often taking up to one minute to dry their hands.  In several studies, on average people spent just 22.5 seconds drying hands, and 41% wiped their hands unhygienically on clothes having carried out incomplete drying procedures.

What Does This Mean for Hand Drying Techniques?

Scientific research has concluded that the provision of paper towels should be considered as a means of improving hand hygiene especially among health care and catering professionals. The use of electric air drying devices should be carefully considered in locations where hygiene is of paramount importance, such as hospitals, clinics, schools, nurseries, care homes, kitchens and other food preparation areas.

If you work in an environment where hygiene is of upmost importance, and want to consider using only paper hand towels from leading brands such as Kimberly-Clark and Tork, browse our selection of folded hand towels, hand towel dispensers, roll towels and roll towel dispensers.

One thing’s for sure, you’ll certainly think twice the next time you’re drying your hands in a washroom!


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