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Are Hand Dryers Hygienic?

There has never been a time in history where there has been such a strong focus on hygiene and sanitisation until today. Whether you are in the home, heading to work, or travelling on public transport, the aim is to reduce exposure to germs and bacteria as much as possible. One of the most effective ways to protect yourself is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. This also means a lot of hand drying! The question then quite often becomes ‘Should I use a hand dryer or paper towels?’

Paper towels can be coarse and irritate skin. They can also be unhygienic if not stored properly, not to mention all the extra waste heading to landfill. Hand dryers today are quieter, more powerful for speedy hand drying and can come with added germ protection.

Hand Dryer vs Paper Towel

Drying hands thoroughly is key, particularly if you want to remain COVID-Safe as germs and bacteria can be easily transferred vis water droplets and wet marks left on taps and door handles. Let’s look at some of the hand dryer vs paper towel facts to understand which one is better.

  • Hand dryers are significantly cheaper to run and you can save substantial costs compared to purchasing paper towel consumables and waste removal.
  • Paper towels create zero noise and perfect for all low noise level required places such as schools and libraries
  • People are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impact paper towel usage has on the environment. Hand dryers are more environmentally friendly to use as manufacturing paper towels generates large amounts of carbon to produce and since some brands can’t be recycled, they may end up in landfill.
  • Because hand dryers use very little energy, they are better for the environment. They can also save money for businesses, schools, hospitals and workplaces with reduced power bills.
  • Hand washing is key to the removal of bacteria, drying is then the preventative measure to make sure bacteria doesn’t spread around from place to place, with germs loving to hop on a wet hand to travel and grow. Several studies have been conducted and the media has written much about the age old war between paper towels and hand dryers. Whilst there are pro’s and con’s on both sides, there is still no clear winner for all situations.


Even though a review of almost 12 studies presents a balanced view, the research was not independent and had a conflict of interest as one of the reviewers was a previous employee of a global paper manufacturer while another one had served as an occupational health and safety consultant. So when independent research is carried out, the conclusion is that there is no difference in the hygiene levels of both methods.

“According to new research conducted by microbiologist Charles Gerba, from the University of Arizona, the average toilet paper dispenser has more than 150 times the number of bacteria than the average toilet seat.

When we look at research findings regarding hand dryers, we find that the amount of bacteria is significantly more on the items that we come in regular contact with such as office equipment, mobile phones, university computer keyboards, and other things which are in frequent and regular use.

Hand Washing Is The Key

The most important aspect of hand hygiene is actually washing the hands thoroughly with high quality soap. This ensures germs are removed from the hands adequately

Then ensure that the hands are completely dried after washing. Whatever the method of drying you choose.  

This reduces the risk of coming into contact with pathogens that thrive on wet environments as you leave the washroom and on other equipment, you come into contact with. 

Advancement In Hand Dryer Technology

Traditional and older model hand dryers were cheaper, more eco-friendly, required less servicing and kept washrooms tidier. However, they could be noisy. The paper towel industry argued that hand dryers were unhygienic as they essentially suck in dust and dirt, are not regularly cleaned inside and then heat up bacteria and blow it onto the users’ hands.

However, today’s newer model hand dryers are quiet, powerful for speedy hand drying within seconds and come with built in ion and germ-fighting technology to give patrons an extra layer of germ protection.

Why Do Hand Dryers Spread Germs?

The hygienic properties of hand dryers were still questionable upu until recently, when there has been a huge surge forward in performance and hygiene. Commercial hand dryers are now equipped with antimicrobial properties. High speed hand dryers without heater elements and antimicrobial technology were considered an effective way to dry hands effectively. The HEPA filter was then invented, which filters the air being sucked into the hand dryer removing dirt and bacteria, making sure clean air is blown over the hands.

Modern Hand Dryers

Long gone are the days of clunky white hand dryer units which blew hot loud air on your hands. Today’s hand dryer models come in a range of styles and colours and with many added benefits such as low-noise. 

A completely new concept launched by Mitsubishi Electric called “The Blade Hand dryer” and product named as “Jet Towel” has become available in a non-heated version and dust and dirt are filtered creating a speedy hand dry. Dyson developed and marketed its own clean air, high speed hand dryer, the Airblade, which gained NSF approval. The Mitsubishi Electric “Jet Towel Slim” and “Jet Towel Smart” are now both NSF certified.  They also have an antibacterial resin injected into their plastic parts.

Modern hand dryers have come a long way from the old dirty, unhygienic warm air versions and are more fast drying, environmentally friendly, and assist in maintaining cleaner washroom facilities.


Hand drying is a vital part of hand hygiene as wet hands are a perfect breeding ground to pick up bacteria from surfaces. Modern hand dryers and paper towels are an equally effective way of drying hands hygienically but the method chosen should be determined by the noise level, energy efficiency and cost.  Modern hand dryers can provide substantial environmental improvements and cost savings, whilst paper towels are an ideal option for places where there is no electricity. However, the key message for hand hygiene is to make sure the hands are correctly washed and then thoroughly dried, whatever the method of choice.