Which Spread More Germs, Hand Dryers Or Paper Towels? The Answer Will Shock You

Restrooms may promote the use of hand dryers instead of paper towels to limit the spread of germs. However, a recent study that compared different methods that are commonly used to dry hands in a public restroom indicated that a paper towel might be the safest option to limit the spread of viruses. But experts also indicated there are other aspects at play besides the methodology used to dry hands after a visit to the loo.

A recent study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology has indicated that single-use paper towels are by far the safest option to limit the spread of germs. As compared to Warm Air Dryers (WAD) and the jazzy Dyson Jet Air Dryers (JAD), the humble paper towel that is discarded after a single use is the best option to be deployed in a public restroom.


The stacks of paper towels or the rolls of linen that automatically wind up after a person uses them doesn’t hurl away water and take germs along for the ride after you wash your hands. While the warm air dryers and jet dryers might quickly dry your hands, they are flinging viral plaques almost 10 feet, and helping them infect unsuspecting victims who maintain good hygiene.

The study indicated that Dyson drier’s 430mph blasts of air are powerful enough to ensure the germs on a person’s hands fly across the length of a bathroom. In comparison, the air from standard drier spreads viruses in the three-feet radius. The research claims a paper towel is the safest, which limits the germs to a radius of just about two feet, reported Popular Science. From a statistical perspective, the jet air driers spread 60 times more germs than standard air dryers, and 1,300 times more than standard paper towels, revealed the research conducted by University of Westminster researchers.


In order to draw the conclusions, researchers dipped their hands into water containing a harmless virus. Thereafter they dried their hands with either a Dyson Airblade, a standard hot-air dryer, or a paper towel. Interestingly, the participants in the study were asked to wear gloves before they dipped their hands into solution of a harmless virus called MS2. They were then asked to give a quick shake before trying out one of the three methods to dry their gloved hands. The researchers then collected the samples from petri dishes, which were placed at different distances from where the drying occurred. As expected, the jet dryer flung the virus the farthest.

Though the research conclusively proved that viruses fly a great distance due to the hand dryers, environmentalists point out a number of shortcomings and anomalies within the testing methods and claim the research is intended to prove that a paper towel is the best solution and hand dryers need to be discarded. The research did not include bacteria, which can also spread disease. However, bacteria are significantly heavier than viruses, but can also cause diseases. Moreover, the participants missed a crucial step of washing their gloved hands, which usually kills a majority of the germs.

According to the Independent, Dyson, a leading manufacturer of hand-drying solutions, including “Airblade,” a popular jet air dryer, has claimed that the research is “misleading” scaremongering by tissue manufacturers. Spokesperson for the company Peter Henderson insists the company routinely faces such criticism. As for the research, Dyson claims that in everyday situations, it would be unlikely for hands to have such high levels of virus contamination as used in the study.

Interestingly, while Dyson might be right, the primary problem lies in the haphazard way people wash their hands after a visit to a public restroom, point out environmentalists. According to Tree Hugger, there won’t be a lot of viruses and bacteria to spread in the first place if people washed their hands properly. Merely counting to 20 while washing your hands ensures majority of the germs get killed, note experts.


Paper towels might fling a lot less germs, but following good hygiene while visiting a public restroom could allow the use of hand dryers, point out experts who note paper towels harm the environment a lot more than hand dryers.

[Photo by Hisham Ibrahim/Getty Images]