Michael Tanguay

By: Michael Tanguay on May 21st, 2020

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Hand Dryers vs Paper Towels: 6 Reasons Paper Towels are the Best Choice

Reducing the spread of pathogens in your facility has likely never been more front-of-mind given the current Coronavirus situation. 

One of the best and most effective ways to reduce the spread of pathogens is with handwashing, according to the CDC

Frequent hand washing is often considered the first line of defense in preventing the spread of illness. It may seem obvious that frequent handwashing is important to staying healthy, but a  2018 study reveals that only about 67% of people always wash their hands after using a public restroom.

The lack of consistent handwashing, coupled with the fact that an estimated 80 percent of all infections are transmitted by hands in the U.S, places further importance on the need for hand hygiene.

As a result it is critical to implement a hand hygiene program that allows people to thoroughly wash and dry their hands. 

There is a lot of information available that reports on the importance of handwashing, but it often lacks promoting the importance of hand drying and its effect on the germ removal process. 

Wash Hands

Dry hands are the critical last step in a handwashing procedure. 

Two popular methods to dry hands include paper hand towels or air dryers. However, these two methods are not equal. 

For example, did you know that jet air dryers can increase the amount of pathogens on fingers, leaving your hands dirtier than before the drying process? 

Using paper towels to dry hands will dry hands more quickly, remove more bacteria, and cause less contamination of the washroom environment.

In this article, we’ll review the 6 benefits of using paper towels vs air dryers to help you understand why paper towels are safer and more effective.

1. Paper Towels Are More Hygienic 

Pathogens can remain on people’s hands even after they wash their hands with soap and water. In fact, according to a study by Michigan State University, nearly 95% of adults do not wash long enough to thoroughly clean the bacteria and viruses from their hands. 

Using a paper towel to rub hands dry will help remove some of the remaining pathogens on them. The physical motion helps kill pathogens as well as take them off the user’s hands. 

Unlike paper towels, air dryers can actually increase the amount of bacteria on an individual's hands. A study from the American Society for Microbiology published in 2018 confirmed that hand dryers spread bacteria from the air to people’s hands. 

The air in restrooms contains bacteria from when toilets are flushed. The circulation of air from hand dryers can force the pathogens into the air and onto the user's hands.

2. Paper Towels Reduce the Amount of Germs in the Restroom 

Air dryers remove water and moisture from the user’s hands by forcing air over them. Any remaining water and pathogens are blown from the user’s hands into the air and onto the surrounding surfaces like countertops and door knobs. Then when those surfaces are touched, pathogens adhere to people's hands and leave the restroom, increasing the risk of cross-contamination. 

Pro Tip: Cross-contamination is the transfer of pathogens from one part of the building to another. For example, without proper wash and dry procedures, pathogens from the restroom can stay on staff’s hands and end up in the kitchen. 

 

Hand dryers sometimes use speeds of over 370 miles per hour (mph), spreading pathogens as far as five feet from the drying unit. Those pathogens can also linger in the air for up to 15 minutes. Using towel to open bathroom door

Paper towels lower the risk of spreading pathogens through the air, reducing the risk of contaminating nearby surfaces. They capture pathogens and moisture from the user’s hands and can then be deposited into a nearby trash receptacle. 

Paper towels can also be used to shut off faucets and open doors so that building occupants don't have to come into contact with these high-touch surfaces.

3. Paper Towels are Faster Than Air Dryers

With a paper towel dispenser, the user simply grabs a paper towel and leaves. However, with a hand dryer it can take as long as 45 seconds to achieve the same dry as paper towels.  

While the difference may not seem like much, those seconds are enough to discourage others to wait in line for the hand dryer and will instead leave the restroom. 

Wet hands spread more pathogens than dry hands. Individuals who leave without drying hands put your facility at an increased risk of germ spread and cross-contamination. 

Additionally, long lines in the restroom can lead to negative experiences, complaints and bad reviews.

4. Paper Towels are Quieter than Air Dryers  

Unhappy BoyHand dryers are noisier than paper towel dispensers. 

According to a review by the University of Westminster, the average jet air dryer produced a noise level of 94 dB, which is equivalent to a truck passing by.

Loud noises can be disturbing to occupants, increasing complaints.

5. Sustainable Options are Available

One of the main complaints associated with paper towels is that they are not sustainable because of the paper waste. 

However, paper hand towels can be composted to help ensure your restroom is waste-free. 

Additionally, to minimize the environmental effects, paper towels can be sustainably sourced or made from recycled materials.

6. Available as a No Touch Solution

Tork PeakServe Mini (002)To further reduce germ spread, installing no-touch, one-at-a-time hand towel dispensers will ensure that people touch only what they need. 

Not only do hands-free towel dispensers reduce germ spread, but they can also reduce the amount of unnecessary towel waste. 

Although air dryers are marketed as no-touch solutions, the air produced to dry hands can actually increase germ spread and put your facility at a greater risk of an outbreak.


Final Thoughts 

Paper towels are the best drying method to limit pathogens left behind on hands during the drying process, and to limit pathogens in the air and on surfaces. 

They also dry hands faster and more efficiently than air dryers. When used with a no-touch, one at a time dispenser you can further reduce germ spread and minimize paper waste. 

Additionally, when surveyed, 62% of people would rather use paper towels over air dryers. Paper towels in your restroom can provide a cleaner, healthier environment and increase customer satisfaction.

EBP offers a full line of hand hygiene products including innovative paper towel dispensing systems, hand soaps and sanitizers, and unparalleled service & training to help you keep your restrooms clean and safe.

Contact an EBP Account Executive today to review your current restroom program and identify ways that can potentially reduce the risk of illness.

About Michael Tanguay

Michael Tanguay is a Sales Representative for EBP Supply Solutions, with over 25 years of experience in helping customers tackle their foodservice packaging and commercial cleaning challenges. Since 2012, he has specialized in sustainable foodservice packaging alternatives to help customers increase their food and beverage sales while being more environmentally conscious, and customizing cleaning and sanitation programs using green cleaning products to help lessen their company’s environmental footprint.