Who has patience for hot-air hand dryers? Jerry Seinfeld even joked about them: How wonderful, he said, a device that allows you to spend even more time in a public restroom!
It’s true. They take forever. But more important, when it comes to hygiene, “paper towels are superior,” according to a study published last summer at Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
In the midst of cold and flu season, and with a dangerous influenza bug going around, it’s worth reiterating the health virtues of paper towels.
The Mayo study and another report on the topic from the University of Westminster in London both found that paper towels are more hygienic than electric dryers.
Because it takes four or five times longer to dry your hands under a typical electric hand dryer than it does with a paper towel, most people walk away with hands still wet, or they wipe them on their clothes. And because germs are transmitted more easily to and from wet skin, hand-washing – normally a widely accepted way to cut the risk of catching a bug – ends up being less effective.
The Westminster study found that paper towels remove more germs from your hands as you rub them dry. And here’s a surprise: People using air dryers ended up with more bacteria on their skin than those who used paper towels.
Furthermore, a recent Wall Street Journal article that reported on the Mayo study suggested that the electric dryer may use more energy than it takes to make a paper towel.
Besides being better for hygiene, paper towels are quieter than electric dryers. And they come from a thriving renewable resource: our abundant forests.
OFRI Board Vice Chair