Paper Towels or Air Dryers?

Timothy Taylor asks this important question:

After washing your hands with anti-microbial soap, is it better to dry them with a paper towel or with an air dryer?

After a review of 12 studies on the issue, he answers:

Basically, paper towels win out over regular air dryers, jet air dryers, and cloth rollers, at least in settings like health care provision where hygiene is especially important.

Partly because:

Removing water from hands after hand-washing is an important part of killing the germs.


Paper towels dry skin faster, help remove contamination through friction, and don’t risk spreading germs through the air.

Comments (9)

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  1. Edward says:

    These are some very interesting findings. When I first read the question I thought to myself that air drying your hands would be the way to go, primarily because by using a paper towel you are transmiting the germs already on the paper towel to your hands, but I guess my reasoning was wrong. Good stuff.

  2. Slater says:

    Im glad I know this imformation now! Hopefully it will help me stay healthy during the flu season.

  3. Ken says:

    Glad to have that problem solved.

  4. August says:

    “At least in settings like health care provision where hygiene is especially important.”

    So while paper towels are better, its probably only at the margins.

  5. seyyed says:


  6. Buster says:

    I agree that paper is best – and most people don’t realize half of cleaning your hands is physically detaching the germs with soap and water and wiping them off with a towel.

    I recall back when I was a kid, filthy gas station restrooms often had towels on a continuous roller, where you were essentially sharing the same towel with others. The portion of the towel that you dried your hands on might be the same section of cloth someone else had used two or three patrons earlier. It’s hard to fathom this type of system today.
    When hot air hand driers came into use, they always had a small set of instructions on a metallic plate at the base of drier. Some prankster invariable scratched another instruction on the list 4) Wipe hands on pants.

  7. Thomas says:

    I wonder how jeans would fare.

  8. Jordan says:

    Here I always thought the point of air dryers was some environmental thing.

    Silly me.

  9. Life of Pi says:

    I am so for bringing the paper towels back, so much more convenient.