Clickbait headlines mislead on paper towel vs. hand dryer debate

23 studies conclude: Hand dryers are as healthy and safe as other drying methods.

Recent clickbait articles feature misleading, unsubstantiated and negative information surrounding hand dryers and COVID-19. Now, the truth has emerged. After 23 peer-reviewed studies, one clear conclusion was reached: Dry your hands with paper towels or hand dryers—because they’re equally hygienic.

Researchers at the University of Arizona conducted an exhaustive two-year “scoping review” of 293 studies. This “study of the studies” is considered the most comprehensive review of its kind and included currently available data, published studies, news reports and online content.

The research team sought to uncover which hand drying method—air hand-dryers or paper towels—is more hygienic and safer relative to human infection risks. Amazingly, their work, published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, revealed only 23 of nearly 300 studies originally considered were worthy of further examination. More revealing, of the 23 examined studies, Arizona researchers found that, while each generally favored paper towels over hand dryers, the conclusions are largely misleading and unsubstantiated.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, hand hygiene is a frequently covered topic in the media. Media reports often tantalize with sensational headlines designed to attract attention and viewership. But, while these headlines may increase traffic, they can overgeneralize or exaggerate research results. The problem is consumers may only read the headlines. And, that false information can sway public opinion.

Kelly Reynolds, 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.” Although numerous studies have been published evaluating the “best” method for hand drying, “best” has been defined in a variety of ways relative to the most effective bacterial removal process. Plus, these studies don’t consider environmental contamination potentials, ecological impact, cost benefits, and more.

The Arizona researchers found the study with the highest scientific 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 Trial). It found that “…there is no difference in bacteria counts when drying with paper towels or hand dryers.”

Conclusion: There is no scientific data that suggests hand dryers spread the coronavirus.

This investigation “clears the air” with certainty. In fact, explore the latest statements and studies from the world’s foremost health authorities and the truth becomes much clearer. With hand hygiene playing a life-and-death role during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to inform your building decisions with a smart, safe selection.

Science has proven that touchless, sensor-activated, hands-under, high-speed, energy-efficient hand drying is absolutely a hygienic way to dry hands after washing—and is an extremely efficient option, as well. 

Here are the most recent statements released by renowned scientific organizations:

“We have no evidence that hand dryers are spreading the coronavirus…”

         —World Health Organization

“There is no evidence that these hand dryers are spreading the virus.”

         —Johns Hopkins Medicine

“…there is no difference in bacteria counts when drying with paper towels or hand dryers.”

        —Mayo Clinic

We believe sensationalized news accounts and clickbait 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 an ideal hygienic hand drying solution.

*Scientific Rigor is the strict application of the scientific method to ensure robust and unbiased experimental design, methodology, analysis, interpretation and reporting of results.