Food Safety News

What's the best way to dry your hands?

Campus Administrator
What's the best way to dry your hands?
by Campus Administrator - Thursday, 6 June 2013, 1:04 PM

11:10 AM Wednesday Jun 5, 2013

It is more hygienic to dry your hands with a paper towel than an electric dryer, a new study has found.

Paper towels are more efficient because they work more quickly than hot air and physically remove germs from the hand, an Australian researcher found.

The transfer of germs is more likely from wet hands than dry hands, explained Dr Cunrui Huang of Queensland University of Technology.

"A hand dryer takes 30 seconds longer to achieve about the same dryness as a towel. This is important because most people spend less than 20 seconds drying their hands," Dr Huang said.

"It is likely that paper towels also work better because they physically remove bacteria from the hands, whereas hot air dryers and jet air dryers cannot."

Dr Huang reviewed 12 studies that evaluated the drying efficiency and removal of bacteria when using paper towels, cloth towels, hot air dryers and new jet air systems.

"What I found was that from a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior," he says.

Effective hand washing is key because it helps stop the spread of germs from one person to another and from contaminated surfaces to a person's mouth and eyes.

Although antibacterial washes are essential in high-risk environments such as hospitals and beneficial on cruise ships and on planes, they are not necessary in daily life.

Previous studies have shown that hand dryers are often contaminated by bacteria in the outlet nozzle and the heat from the dryer is the perfect temperature to encourage their growth.

"This can increase the number of germs by an astonishing 255 per cent," said Keith Redway, senior academic in Microbiology and Molecular Biology at Westminster University.

Bacteria are then blown on to the hands of users and into the atmosphere.

This leads to the potential for the spread of organisms such as salmonella and E. coli, as people often dry their hands before cleaning them properly.

Keith Redway's research has shown that disposable paper towels remove 58 per cent of bugs and cotton roller-towels 45 per cent.

"The message has to be to wash and then dry your hands thoroughly, using paper towels, not the hot-air dryers," explained Redway.