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Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels: Which is best for health?

The spread of the novel coronavirus has dramatically increased hand-washing in the United States, and for good reason: regularly washing with soap and water is one of the best ways to reduce transmission. But practicing good hand hygiene doesn’t end when you turn off the faucet — the way you dry your hands makes a difference, too.

When hand dryers first hit the market, they were hailed as innovative, eco-friendly restroom solutions that could also prevent the spread of contagious disease. However, if we dig into the research on hand dryers vs. paper towels, we see that the former just don’t live up to the hype. Understanding the risks created by hand dryers is especially important in the coronavirus era, when we now know that the virus primarily spreads through droplets.

The Truth About Hand Dryers 

In 2018, researchers at Quinnipiac University and the University of Connecticut found that hand dryers actually take bacteria from the air in restrooms and deposit them onto freshly-washed hands. Researchers placed petri dishes in the bathroom air for two minutes. The dish that was not exposed to air from a hand dryer grew one colony of bacteria in that time. The dish that was exposed to hot air from a hand dryer for just 30 seconds grew an incredible 254 colonies of bacteria! 

Further research supports these findings. Another study confirmed that hot air dryers disperse air and bacteria much further than using paper towels. Researchers concluded that the use of hand dryers was unsafe in critical care environments because they dispersed bacteria-laden air onto the lab coats of participants. This created a serious risk of cross-contamination in the lab, but using paper towels did not produce that risk. 

Restrooms have been called “the real hot zones” of COVID-19 by medical researchers because the virus can be present in stool. When toilets flush, they create a plume cloud of droplets, potentially contaminating the entire restroom. The forced air created by air dryers essentially re-deposits this air directly onto freshly-cleaned hands and every surface in the restroom. This creates a serious risk of spreading COVID-19 and other viruses. 

Paper Towels are Safer, More Effective Solution 

The evidence is clear — paper towels are a safer, more effective hand hygiene solution. Use them to dry your hands completely after washing for at least 20 seconds, then grab another to open the restroom door without re-contaminating your hands. 

von Drehle’s Transcend Controlled Use Roll Towels are the perfect option for keeping your restrooms cleaner and safer during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. These absorbent, high capacity controlled-use roll towels can be used with our Transcend mechanical hands-free dispensing systems to reduce the spread of the virus. Click here to learn more, or contact us today to place your order