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A smartly dressed woman drying her hands with a white paper towel in a washroom

Paper Towels Vs Hand Dryers: What’s more hygienic?


Since you were little you‘ve always been told to wash your hands, but why is that? Well, it‘s simple improper hand hygiene can cause serious complications to your health.

Did you know that 80% of infections such as the flu are spread by hand?

When it comes to proper hand hygiene drying your hands is as important as washing them, and this got me thinking – which hand drying technique is more hygienic paper towels or hand dryers?

Paper Towels

paper-towelsPaper towels can be found in washrooms all over the world, and come in a variety of methods and dispensing formats, but what makes them so great?

Why use paper towels?

  • Quick and easy to use
  • Avoid cross contamination
  • Great User Experience

Quick to use

There is no doubt that paper towels are much quicker at both drying and using than traditional hand dryers, adhering nicely to the busy lifestyle of modern day society. On top of that research into the effectiveness of paper towels has suggested that ten seconds of drying with a paper towel is as effective as 40 seconds of using a standard hot air hand dryer.

Cross Contamination

Since paper towels are extremely quick at drying your hands, leaving the washroom with damp hands is less likely. This is one of the issues surrounding traditional electrical hand dryers, which take a long time to effectively dry your hands, especially as people often do not have the patience to wait until their hands are dry.

The issue with leaving the washroom with damp hands is that you increase your risk of catching germs, rendering the time you spent washing your hands pointless. Bacteria thrive in damp conditions, so although you have thoroughly cleaned your hands, leaving them damp attracts more germs.

Great User Experience

Paper towels offer a great personal and discreet user experience, especially when high-quality products are used. Paper towels come in a range of different thicknesses, more often than not washrooms that offer individual, high thickness of paper towels produce an enhanced user experience by providing a sense of luxury and also pampering.

Hand Dryers

Hand Drier If a washroom isn‘t equipped with a paper towel dispenser, then chances are there will be an electrical hand dryer available.

There are two types of  electrical hand dryers both of which dry your hands via the use of high powered air, blowing excess water and moisture off hands:

  • Hot Air
  • Cold Air

Hot air hand dryers

Often the traditional, soft blow type of dryer, that can make it frustrating to wait for hands to be completely dry. However, recently hot air hand dryers have entered the jet dryer space with air propulsed on hands at high speed to blow wetness off a user hands quickly and efficiently.

Cold air hand dryers

Cold air jet hand dryers were the first to project air at a high speed. The high powered sheet of cold air dries the user’s hands by scraping the wetness off their hands.

The benefits of using a hand dryer over paper towels

There are some areas in which hand dryers are more beneficial to use than paper towels. Let’s take a look at what these are:

Practical and low maintenance

Compared to paper towels, hand dryers require far less maintenance. New high-speed dryers eliminate both the stress of facing an empty paper towel dispenser and a washroom littered with used paper towels.

Discarded paper towels can disperse germs and bacteria across the washroom if proper disposal of paper towels is neglected or insufficient bins are not provided.

Environmentally Friendly

Hand dryers are also said to be more environmentally friendly than paper towels. For one they are not reliant on single-use materials (paper), which constantly need to be replaced to be effective. Not only does this mean fewer trees need to be used, but it also reduces the greenhouse gases emitted in the production of paper towels.

New Technology

You might be thinking “hand dryers use electricity, that‘s not very environmentally friendly”. Well, newer jet hand dryers are designed with this factor in mind, with some using 80% less energy than traditional versions.

So which is better paper towels or hand dryers?

Well, the real answer is neither. Both paper towels and hand dryers provide effective hand drying.

At the end of the day, the real issues with both drying methods come down to the user. Hand dryers and paper towels can both fail to adhere to proper hand hygiene methods when they aren‘t used to their full potential.  This can range anywhere from not thoroughly drying your hands with a paper towel, to not spending enough time using a hand dryer.

Want to know how to educate your office about proper hand hygiene? Click here.

Why is drying your hands important?

Drying your hands is an essential part of the handwashing process and contributes greatly to proper hand hygiene.

Did you know damp hands can spread 1000 times more bacteria than dry hands?

Bacteria and viruses love damp and thrive under these conditions. After you‘ve spent the time thoroughly washing your hands with warm water and soap, eliminating the germs and bacteria you have come in contact previously, you are at higher risk of catching and transmitting bacteria if hand drying is neglected.

Jack Lyons


  1. I have always wondered if the hand dryers are better or if the hand towels are. We have both types of hand dryers in my school as well as towels too. It is interesting how we have many options just to dry our hands. I like the hand dryers because they make it so your hand drys faster and you don’t leave residue on the water.

  2. Hey, your blog is always great to read, much well-written information and knowledge. Keep up the good work! The Dyson Airblade is effective in the sense that it removes all of the water from my hands by transferring it directly onto my shirt

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