What’s the best way to dry your hands? Paper towel

Almost seven years ago, I got hired by Kansas State University after publicly declaring their all-in-one handwashing system sorta sucked.

handwashing unitThe prez agreed, and I wrote a summary document of available research

Probably should have turned that into a paper and published it (although we have published other handwashing things).

No worries, Dr Cunrui Huang of the Queensland University of Technology has done it for me, concluding it is more hygienic to dry your hands with a paper towel than an electric dryer.

Paper towels are more efficient because they work more quickly than hot air and physically remove germs from the hand, an Australian researcher found.

The transfer of germs is more likely from wet hands than dry hands.

“A hand dryer takes 30 seconds longer to achieve about the same dryness as a towel. This is important because most people spend less than 20 seconds drying their hands,” Dr Huang said.

“It is likely that paper towels also work better because they physically remove bacteria from the hands, whereas hot air dryers and jet air dryers cannot.”
Dr Huang reviewed 12 studies that evaluated the drying efficiency and removal of bacteria when using paper towels, cloth towels, hot air dryers and new jet air systems.

“What I found was that from a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior,” he says.

Keith Redway, senior academic in Microbiology and Molecular Biology at Westminster University has shown that disposable paper towels remove 58 per cent of bugs and cotton roller-towels 45 per cent.

“The message has to be to wash and then dry your hands thoroughly, using handwashing.munich.may.12paper towels, not the hot-air dryers,” explained Redway.

Unfortunately, paper towels are rare in Queensland and Australian bathrooms, and in many other places. There are lots of handwashing preachers, but what about providing the proper tools for handwashing, like paper towels?

And yes, I still take pictures in bathrooms.

  • Robson Machado

    There’s a gentleman at the back still at his business. Hopefully he washed his hands… and dried with paper towels!

  • Christine Bruhn

    Was the review published? I can not find it useing an author search.


    ….The “dangers” of camera’s, mirrors……and google-glasses.


    ….The “dangers” of camera’s, mirrors……and google-glasses.

  • K-State parent

    Air drying isn’t the only problem with that hand-washing system. It doesn’t provide enough soap, and then the water turns off before you can adequately wash. On the other hand, maybe the novelty of it prompts some people to wash, rather than just walking by. Or maybe the opposite is true. Nice idea. Weak implementation.

  • Tim Sutherland

    The Mythbusters recently did an episode where they looked at towels vs air drying and found that towels are more hygienic too. (Episode 200 Down and Dirty; Earthquake Surivial, air date 15 May 2013 USA)

  • Pingback: New Research Says That Paper Towels Are More Sanitary Than Hand Dryers | Flint's Best Mix()

  • natasha

    I’ve always been wary of air dryers and bacteria, not only inadequacy of truly clean hands but with cleanliness of units. now with popularity of Dyson type I’m even more convinced. Evidence of mould in these units everywhere! I snapped photos for those naysayers!