Why bother washing your hands?

I’m one of those people (probably the majority?) that when posed with the choice of drying my hands with a paper towel or an air dryer, I go with paper towels every time. It takes less time, and who really wants to spend more time in a public restroom than absolutely necessary?

Well, now I have a new reason to prefer paper towels. The issue of hygiene never really occurred to me. In fact if I was asked which is more hygienic I’d probably have guessed air dryers. Apparently I’d have been wrong.

A recent University of Westminster study measured bacteria counts directly below and up to 2 meters away from different dryers and towel dispensers. Paper towels posed the least risk of cross contamination. Warm air and high speed dryers literally blow out bacteria for long distances – up to 2 meters in the case of the Dyson Airblade (it’s a pretty cool dryer though, I must admit).

High speed dryers harbor bacteria on their surfaces and in their air streams which could lead to dangerous cross contamination. So even though you just washed the bacteria from your hands, air dryers can put it right back on, as well as circulate bacteria from surfaces around the room.

The University of Westminster study found that high speed dryers increase bacteria count on hands up to 42%, and warm air dryers increase bacteria by up to 254%. On the other hand, paper towels actually reduce bacteria on hands by up to 77%.

So next time you’re in the restroom… paper or air?