Paper Towels vs Hand Dryers: Which One Spreads More Bacteria?

Paper Towels vs Hand Dryers

The Paper Towels vs Hand Dryers debate has been settled.

You don’t even want to know how many people don’t bother to wash their hands after using the restroom, so we won’t talk about them. Instead, let’s look at those that don’t wash their hands properly, either by not lathering the soap long enough (sing twinkle twinkle little star to yourself) or by skipping the soap altogether. (What’s up with that, by the way?)

As a result of their incomplete scrubbing, these folks actually don’t clean all the bacteria off their hands and thus continue smearing it around the bathroom and everywhere else they touch. And if you stick those not-actually clean hands into an air dryer instead of using a paper towel, well, you’re just setting off a bacteria bomb.

Researchers have known for a while that warm air hand dryers launch bacteria into the air, which then settles on surfaces where they remain alive for hours, ready to jump onto the next hand that comes into contact with them. But now there is new research that shows jet air dryers, like the Dyson Airblade, compound the problem by blasting more germs even further around the restroom.

Paper towels do not have this problem, they spread pretty much no bacteria. So, there you have it, the paper towels vs hand dryers debate has been settled.

If you’d like to know more, this research was covered extensively at Ars Technica. Here’s a quote:

This new research compared the viral explosions from paper towels, a standard warm hand dryer, and a Dyson Airblade jet dryer. The researchers had two participants slather their gloved hands with a virus called MS2, which infects only bacteria but is a model for the spread of non-enveloped human viruses, such as norovirus. The resulting viral coating was in the realm of the amount of virus shed in the feces of people infected with severe stomach bugs, such as norovirus and rotavirus, and the amount of viral particles that might stick to dirty paws, the authors argue.

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