Study: Hand dryers equally hygienic to paper towels for drying hands

Press enter to search
Close search
Open Menu

Study: Hand dryers equally hygienic to paper towels for drying hands

By Marianne Wilson - 09/11/2020

When it comes to promoting good hygiene and health, there is no difference between drying hands with hand dryers and paper towels.

That’s according to a study by a University of Arizona Health Sciences, which found that the use of hand dryers and paper towels to dry hands was equal from a health and safety perspective.

The findings echo recommendations from the World Health Organization that everyone “frequently clean [their] hands…” and “dry [them] thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer,” and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report which stated that, “Both [clean towels or air hand dryers] are effective ways to dry hands.”

Researchers for the University of Arizona study, Comparison of electric hand dryers and paper towels for hand hygiene: a critical review of the literature, found that, while studies in the public arena generally favor paper towels over hand dryers, the conclusions are largely misleading and unsubstantiated.

“We hope these credible findings will be consulted as part of guidelines and reopening plans,” said William Gagnon, VP of marketing and sales at Excel Dryer. “Sensationalized news accounts and click-bait headlines created an unsubstantiated concern around hand dryers and hygiene. We’re grateful to the researchers for uncovering the truth, and hope the findings will help to dispel myths and categorize hand dryers as the hygienic hand drying solution they are.”

To conduct the study, the research team considered 293 papers and published studies for inclusion in their review, rejecting 270 for failing to meet review criteria or for reporting generalized recommendations without sufficient scientific evidence.

The 23 peer-reviewed studies that met the inclusion criteria were categorized and prioritized based on their scientific rigor, a score determined by taking into account such factors as sample size, methodology, data quality and whether or not the study was set up to represent real-world scenarios.

The study that was found to have the highest rigor score was an independent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, Effects of 4 Hand-Drying Methods for Removing Bacteria From Washed Hands: A Randomized TrialIt found that “…there is no difference in bacteria counts when drying with paper towels or hand dryers.” Only three studies received positive rigor scores for having realistic testing conditions, and none of the studies reported any negative effects of either hand drying method on human health.

Although numerous studies have been published evaluating the “best” method for hand drying, “best” has been defined in a variety of ways relative to bacterial removal efficacy, environmental contamination potentials, ecological or cost benefits, noise and more. Kelly Reynolds, MSPH, Ph.D., the corresponding author of the review explained that, “No study to date has examined the “best” drying method,” and that she and her team, “found no empirical data to support one-hand drying method over another from a health and safety perspective.”

“At a time when proper hand washing and drying is of the utmost importance, exclusively recommending paper towels is limiting, and frankly, irresponsible,” added Excel’s Gagnon. “Hand dryers provide an effective way to achieve completely dry hands, a critical part of proper hand hygiene, the top defense against the spread of germs, like coronavirus.”

Related Topics