“Shaking Off” Wet Hands in a Public Restroom? Think Again

Picture this: you’ve just washed your hands in a public restroom and have to decide between drying with a hand dryer or paper towels. Which is the superior hygienic option? Time and time again, research has shown both are good methods to achieve clean, dry hands. But that’s the key—your hands need to be dry. Shaking the water off or wiping your hands on your clothing won’t get the job done, making these unhygienic choices greatly increases the risk for spreading bacteria and other germs. In this blog, we provide the evidence to help you “shake off” the notion that these methods work.

The Importance of Drying

If not properly washed and dried, hands can be a place where germs collectWe use our hands to touch everything—cell phones, keyboards, faucets, doorknobs and more. Between each of those touchpoints, we also touch our faces an average of 16 times per hour, giving any germs we’ve picked up easy access into our body through our eyes, nose and mouth. But this germ transfer can be greatly reduced with proper hand hygiene.

In fact, handwashing is so vital to public health that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compares it to a “do-it-yourself vaccine.” The agency emphasizes the role of hand drying in this process, stating, “Germs spread more easily when hands are wet, so make sure to dry your hands completely, whatever method you use.”

To support this assertion by the CDC, research from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, also found dry hands result in a 99% reduction in the level of bacteria transmission when compared to wet hands. To put this another way, wet hands are 1,000 times more likely to transfer bacteria, so your hands are never fully clean until they are clean and dry.

The Study of Studies

Hundreds of studies have been funded to determine the hygienic benefits of various hand drying methods, but not all studies are created equal. In 2020, University of Arizona researchers published a review of the available material.

“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.”

Dr. Reynolds and her team culled the data, including published studies, news reports and online content, seeking to uncover which hand drying method—hand dryers or paper towels—is more hygienic and safer relative to human infection risks.

“From a health and safety perspective, we found no empirical data to support one hand-drying method [hand dryers vs paper towels] over another,” said Dr. Reynolds.

While dry hands are critical to hygiene, it’s important to note that you should never dry your hands on your clothes. Chances are, your clothes aren’t completely clean and it could contaminate your hands and lessen the benefits of hand washing. It’s like washing with a used paper towel.

Important to thoroughly wash hands before dryingProviding Trusted Hand Hygiene

Excel Dryer’s line of sensor-activated, touchless hand dryers have long been trusted to achieve proper hand hygiene by retail stores, airports, restaurants, schools, hospitals, stadiums and countless other facilities. For an added level of hygienic protection, HEPA filtration is available on each of our models (it comes standard on the XLERATORsync®). When equipped with HEPA filtration systems, XLERATOR® Hand Dryers remove 99.999% of viruses and 99.97% of potentially present bacteria at 0.3 microns from the airstream, as evidenced by independent testing from LMS Technologies.

Next time you’re in a restroom, we hope you think twice about “shaking off” your wet hands! Please contact us to learn more about how our line of hand dryers can help keep you (and your hands) more hygienic.