Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels

“What options do I have for hand drying after I have washed my hands, and which is the best/most sanitary? Which method is the most efficient, and which is the fastest method? Are there certain tools that would make my experience better?”

It almost seems like a rudimentary question, given that it seems like there is not exactly a whole lot that can be done with regard to drying your hands.

The first method that likely comes to mind is probably the simplest one: use a paper towel. This is certainly a viable solution without much thought given to it, because the exact purpose desired to be fulfilled can be – you dry your hands with one, or several paper towels, and then leave on your merry way. This may not be considered satisfactory, though. Some of you that are very mindful of your sanitary habits may go a step further, utilizing paper towels as an intermediary point of contact when touching areas of a bathroom that may be considered unsanitary (a doorknob might come to mind here).

The second, perhaps more favored method, would be the warm air hand dryer. A warm air hand-dryer does what one would expect: it blows heated air to a source in an effort to reduce moisture content on a person’s hands. Simple enough, right? Unfortunately not. Like many electronics, hand dryers have specifications that allow separation between functionally “low-end” and “high-end” dryers.

What metric do we use to qualitatively measure a hand-dryer, though? One thing is for certain: automated/sensor-based hand dryers are better than manual air dryers because your hands do not have to come into contact with something that might not be sanitized. Note that this does not necessarily mean functionally better, but they are more sanitary due to facilitating contact avoidance. In today’s day and age, a respectable majority of warm air hand dryers are automatic and don’t require contact with a button. Another assessment of warm air hand dryers that can be made is the speed of the motor used to propel the warm air to your hands. For lack of a technical explanation, the general consensus is that a higher RPM (revolutions per minute), the more effective the device will be at drying your hands after triggering it.

Back to our initial question: which one is better? Well, both answers can be argued for and against. One could say that the usage of a paper towel is more effective, because they allow you to directly target where you want to dry off. However, if your hands are not completely dried off after cleaning, then what? Yes, you could grab a number of paper towels, but then the predicament of waste begins to present itself. Additionally, we don’t know if the container housing paper towels has any bacteria itself – begin the circular logic issue.

Warm air hand dryers have their benefits and disadvantages as well. They are advantageous because you are able to dry without physical waste, in contrast to paper towels, which get thrown in the trash, or even worse, locations that they do not belong. Another (arguably) good point is that the air propelled from the dryer is, as named, warm. What happens if you have a button to push to start the air dryer? However rare it may be, there are facilities where manually started dryers exist, forcing you to potentially interact with contaminated surfaces. To further add to disadvantages: if an automatic dryer exists on its own with nothing else, there are some circumstances where a bathroom will not be possible to exit without coming into some sort of contact (opening a door to exit the facility, for example).

At the end of the day, the choice on how you would like to maintain sanitary habits is entirely up to you – being well informed can assist in proper habits.