What do you use to dry your hands after a washing them at the sink? Before writing this blog post, I never thought twice about the methods I use to dry my hands after washing them with water. At home, I use a cloth towel; in public bathrooms, I would use paper towels. I never really got into the concept of drying them using an electric hand dryer – the thought of the water evaporating from my hands rather than being wiped off with a towel was not a comfortable thought for me.
After conducting some research, I came across a scientific article and a YouTube video that evaluate the effectiveness of the methods of hand drying.
The article looked at the efficiency in paper, cloth and warm air drying in getting rid of 2 types of microorganisms after washing hands with soap and water. Their results suggest that there was a significant difference in reduction of germs across all the methods tests. After washing hands with soap and water and drying with a cloth towel, 80% of the germs on the hand were eliminated. A 92% reduction was seen when hands were washed and dried with warm, compared to an 87% reduction when hands were dried with paper towels. Washing hands and not drying them at all (or drying them “naturally”) led to a 77% reduction, the lowest of them all.
The video above presents the comparison between using paper towels and hand dryers in a visual and comic way.
The video gave a brief breakdown of use of paper towels vs hand dryers in eliminating germs. For paper towels, after 5 seconds and 10 seconds, there is a 85% and 96% reduction, respectively. In addition, a 70% and 97% reduction is seen after using the hand dryer for 22 seconds and 45 seconds, respectively.
This data is contradictory to the article’s above. It may as well be, since this is not a peer-reviewed scientific finding. What is the method of data collection? Could they have rounded up or down the data to make a point? What is the margin of error?
However, they did have a point about the USA using 12 billion tons of paper towels a year, and how recently electric hand dryers and becoming more energy efficient. They also suggested a way to use one piece of paper towel to productively dry your hands.
So what can we conclude after this research? Maybe I don’t need to switch to hands dryers if I just wash my hands better with soap. Or, I can use one piece of paper towel and dry properly in public bathrooms. What is your take on this?
-Uttara Kumar (Edited on 9/2/15)