Should you use hand dryers or paper towels?

written by Emily Best, North America Marketing Manager at Microban

The question on everyone’s hands: hand dryers or paper towels?

Hand washing is one of the most fundamental good hygiene practices that we learn from a young age. According to the Indian Journal of Medical Research, “hand hygiene is now regarded as one of the most important elements of infection control activities.” In most parts of the world, it is commonplace to wash hands after going to the restroom; this practice is particularly emphasized in healthcare and food service environments. In addition to hospitals, restaurants, and the like, it is increasingly common to find hand dryers in public restrooms at high traffic public establishments such as shopping malls, schools, sports complexes, and beyond. Some facilities even offer patrons the choice of using a hand dryer or paper towels at hand washing stations. So, if you’re asking yourself the question, “Should you use hand dryers or paper towels?” - read on for key insights into which method proves better for decreasing germs on hands.

Germs on hands? The culprit may be different than you think.

Despite most peoples’ instinct to immediately use the nearest hand dryer after washing their hands, studies have shown that many hand dryers can actually recontaminate our hands with bacteria subsequent to us washing them. Need a visual? Just watch this video by CBS 2 Chicago as they test some seriously dirty hand dryers in common public establishments. Additionally, hand dryers and other washroom equipment, if left uncleaned, can harbor a serious number of microbes and pathogens, ultimately increasing the risk of cross-contamination, germs on hands, and fostering the proliferation of potentially illness-causing bacteria. According to studies cited in Forbes, Staphylococcus haemolyticus, Micrococcus luteus, Pseudomonas alcaligenes, Bacillus cereus and Brevundimonad diminuta/vesicularis are just a small sampling of the many not-so-friendly hand dryer bacteria floating through the air in public restrooms.

Washroom equipment manufacturers are not responsible for the cleaning or maintenance of their products after the equipment has been purchased, but many do supply guidelines and codes of best practice on how to effectively clean the equipment.. Unfortunately, regular cleaning of restroom equipment like hand dryers is extremely rare and often leads to amplified microbial growth on these products and surfaces. Findings published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology show that air blown from hand dryers in 36 different men’s and women’s restrooms in an academic health center produced up to 60 times more colonies of bacteria per culture plate than regular bathroom air without the hand dryers running.

The Hand Dryer Hero

These insights and many more from scientists around the world suggest that hand dryer bacteria, as well as the presence of many other types of bacteria on products, needs to be addressed with intelligent built-in solutions. Antimicrobial technology can be easily incorporated into the surface of restroom equipment like hand dryers during the manufacturing process, which would prevent the growth of harmful and hazardous bacteria and mold on equipment that comes into close contact with human skin. At Microban, our team of scientists and engineers have developed an innovative and industry leading portfolio of antimicrobial treatments that are the perfect complement to products like hand dryers. So, if you’re still trying to decide between using paper towels or hand dryers, the choice is yours. But, if you’re trying to decide which antimicrobial company to partner with for your manufacturing process, the choice is Microban International. Click here to contact a member of the Microban team today.