Hand Dryers Vs. Paper Towels: Separating Hygiene Fact From Fiction

You’re washing your hands in a public restroom and have to decide between hand dryers or paper towels to dry your hands. What do you choose? For years, a debate has persisted around the hygienic benefits between these two options, with misinformation and myths clouding the discussion. In this blog, we debunk common hand hygiene fallacies and separate fact from fiction to help you make an informed choice for a cleaner and more hygienic experience.

Myth: Hand Dryers Spread Bacteria

You may have heard claims that hand dryers suck fecal matter from restroom air and blow it around. First of all, if true, that means there is already fecal matter in the air all around you. That signals a hygiene issue with the restroom, which would also be present if paper towels were the selected drying solution.

Hand dryers don’t harbor and blow out impurities. In an oft-cited, pro-paper study published in the American Society for Microbiology in 2018, University of Connecticut researchers held plates under hand dryers and produced results indicating that many bacteria can be deposited on hands held under dryers. However, they noted that “it seems extremely unlikely that hand dryers carry a significant reservoir of bacteria within the nozzle that are aerosolized and deposited on plates.”

The researchers also noted how HEPA filtration significantly reduces any impurities a dryer could disperse. Excel Dryer’s high-speed, touchless hand dryers, now fitted with electrostatic HEPA,  deliver clean, filtered air, effectively minimizing any potential risk. These systems remove 99.999% of viruses and 99.97% of potentially present bacteria according to testing performed by LMS Technologies.

Myth: Paper Towels Don’t Spread Germs

Do you think those commonly used brown, recycled paper towels leave your hands sparkling clean? According to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, unused paper towels made from recycled fibers are home to between 100- to 1,000-fold more bacteria than a wood pulp brand. The study also concluded that bacteria on these paper towels may be transferred to people after they wash their hands.

On the other hand, electric hand dryers, such as those offered by Excel Dryer, are far more hygienic than frequently portrayed. Both the Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) agree that clean towels and air dryers are both effective ways to dry hands. The CDC says, “There is currently not enough scientific evidence to determine if using a clean towel or an air hand dryer to dry your hands is more effective at reducing germs on your hands.” The key to effective hand hygiene lies in proper handwashing techniques, which include fully drying hands, despite of the drying method used.

Myth: Most Scientific Research Supports Paper Towel Usage

Instead of looking at a single study, let’s examine a source that analyzed all the studies. In August 2020, renowned researchers at the University of Arizona concluded that the use of hand dryers and paper towels to dry hands was equal from a health and safety perspective. The review culled the current breadth of data, including published studies, news reports and online content, seeking to uncover which hand drying method is more hygienic and safer relative to human health risks.

“Some of the top-ranking articles in our Google search were white papers authored or sponsored by paper companies,” said Dr. Kelly Reynolds, the Director of the University’s Environment, Exposure Science & Risk Assessment Center. “Additionally, media reports frequently used sensationalized headlines. While such headlines may increase traffic, they sometimes overgeneralize or exaggerate research results. Consumers may only read the headlines, which can influence public opinion toward biased or erroneous conclusions.”

Myth: Paper Towels Encourage Cleaner Restrooms

One of the biggest benefits hand dryers provide over paper towels is the completely touchless experience. Did you know 80% of germs are spread by touch? Since 2020, the critical need to limit interactions with objects, especially in highly trafficked areas such as restrooms, has come into the spotlight. Hand dryers like the XLERATOR® Hand Dryer make touchpoints—such as a paper towel dispensing bar or the paper itself—a non-issue.

They also limit the waste products associated with paper towels. Have you ever gone into a restroom only to see used paper strewn about the floors and countertops? Wet paper towels are like magnets for bacteria and can cause serious hygiene issues if not regularly removed. Hand dryers have no such waste product.

A Sink System installed in a restroomExcel Dryer: The Hygienic Choice

When it comes to hand drying hygiene, you must base decisions on scientific evidence rather than fallacies. We are committed to transparency, which means we go to great lengths to back up any claims we make about our products. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding the hygienic capabilities of our products. We’re happy to speak with you and separate fact from fiction.