Over the course of several decades, it has been proven by researchers from hygiene authorities that wet hands are more capable of transferring bacteria than hands that are dry. The reason being is that existing moisture allows for bacteria and viruses to transfer to food, objects and solid surfaces through touch.
However, leaving the restroom with dry hands is clear, but the subject of how we dry our hands is rarely focused on, especially since not all hand-drying methods are equally effective.
Several studies have looked into the effectiveness of air dryers versus hand towels, resulting in paper towels being favorable. For instance, one study published by the University of Leeds in 2014 found that the levels of airborne germs near warm air dryers were 27 times higher than those near paper towel dispensers.
Another study done in 2011 by Dr. Anna Snelling, of Bradford University, also indicated an increase in bacteria levels when people rubbed their hands together while using a hand dryer.
“Good hand hygiene should include drying hands thoroughly and not just washing,” said Dr. Snelling in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. “The most hygienic method of drying hands is using paper towels or using a hand dryer which doesn’t require rubbing your hands together.”
Although hand dryers may be more environmentally friendly and less effective, there is an alternative method. The use of touch-free paper towel dispensers are increasing, which can help reduce the spread of bacteria.
Beggs, C. B., Saville, T., Snelling, A. M., Stevens, D. (2011). Comparative Evaluation of the Hygienic Efficacy of an Ultra-Rapid Hand Dryer vs. Conventional Warm Air Hand Dryers. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 110(1), 19-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2010.04838.x
Roberts, L. (2010). Rubbing Hands Together After Washing Them Increases the Danger of Contamination, Scientists Warn. Telegraph Media Group Limited.
Trudel, T. (2015). Why Hand Drying Protocols Shouldn’t Be Hung Out to Dry. Food Quality & Safety.