Hand Dryers vs Paper Towels

Germs spread more easily when hands are wet according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  Drying your hands thoroughly is essential to prevent transferring germs.  Is there a best method for drying hands?

Hand drying graphic

A best method for drying hands depends upon who you talk to.  Paper towels, cloth towels, and hot air dryers are commonly used to dry washed hands. Hands can also dry by evaporation. Some experts prefer paper and others prefer hand dryers.  Both have valid reasons for what they prefer.  The CDC says that there is not enough scientific evidence to support one method as more effective at reducing germs on your hands.  A review of studies done can found in the Mayo Proceedings, The Hygienic Efficacy of Different Hand-Drying Methods:  A Review of the Evidence.  All agree that the amount of moisture left on hands after washing is the biggest factor in how many microorganisms can be spread by touching things.  Therefore, hand drying by evaporation is only good if nothing is touched during the evaporation period.

The bottom line is to wash your hands effectively and dry them completely with whatever method is available. Don’t let your hands drip dry and don’t dry them on your clothes.   If your clothing is dirty, your hands will be re-contaminated and the benefits of washing your hands reduced.

Reviewed 6/2024, mg.

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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