Being Green or Inviting Green: Do Hand Dryers Increase Germ Activity?

We have all seen the recycled products or the “paperless push” as individuals, businesses and communities embrace the green initiative and provide products or services that are more environmentally conscious. However, is paperless always the best or healthiest option? Rumor has it that hand dryers can actually add to the germs that are on your hands as they collect the air they blow to dry your hands from the surrounding environment. That seems like it could be decently accurate, right? There’s no way we want to be potentially adding germs to our hands after we just scrubbed them away. Is paper safer or is this a rumor that needs to be squashed?

The Mayo Clinic conducted a study to test the effects of four different hand-drying methods for their ability to remove bacteria from washed hands. This randomized study of 100 adults measured the amount of bacteria on the hands of each person before washing with a non-antibacterial soap and then measured again after drying by (1) cloth towel, (2) paper towel, (3) warm hand dryer and (4) air dry. Surprisingly, there was no significant increase in removing bacteria from hands using a hand dryer than any of the other methods.

In fact, several researchers indicate that air drying can significantly reduce numbers of bacteria and viruses on washed hands. How? Well, dryers have shown the ability to dry more than just the top layer of skin, helping to remove leftover water or soap suds that may have remaining bacteria inside. Air drying also has the ability to permeate creases in dry skin slightly better than rough paper towels, eliminating whatever bacteria and cleaning solution may be left on your skin.

It seems like we have a squashed rumor on hand here. Partner this information up with the fact that touchless cleaning options (faucets, soap dispensers and now air dryers) all take away the “touch factor” where germs and bacteria are most commonly spread, and we may have dispelled this issue for good. We’ve gone more sanitary, but could we go even more green than paperless?

Absolutely. A new hand drying product has been launched within the last six months that uses 80% less energy than traditional hand dryers. What? 80% less?! Called the EcoDri, this sleek and modern hand dyer can dry hands in 15-20 seconds with its touch-free interface which shuts off automatically after 60 seconds of continuous use. And the metal and ABS plastic components are 100% recyclable. The EcoDri is a product that is sure to stick around and set the precedent in green hand drying – especially now that we know they’re all about being green, not inviting green.

This article has 6 Comments

    1. Gary,

      Thanks for taking the time to read through and providing the “other side of the coin” on this issue. We’re familiar with the study you’ve mentioned among others and have done some pretty extensive research of our own to look at the whole picture.

      As seen above, the study from the Mayo Clinic did include a look at multiple methods of drying hands after washing in terms of bacterial counts and have found no significant differences in efficiency between paper towels and hand dryers. There was also a recent study featured in The Official Journal of the Society of Hospital Epidemiologists in America acknowledged by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health which determined that holding hands still (not rubbing them) while drying is most desirable for removing bacteria, and while paper towels were useful for removing bacteria from fingertips, they were not as effective in removing bacteria from palms or fingers.

      Since we found it important to consider the entire hand washing experience in our research to find the most hygienic way to dry, we would also like to present the fact that paper towels must be discarded in common trash bins. The bacteria discarded on used paper towels is then on the surface of these trash bins increasing the risk for cross contamination. When using a hand dryer, there is no need to come into contact with these trash bins.

      Thanks for sharing this article with us and we hope you find these studies to be helpful for you as well.

  1. But it’s true that using hand dryer at public bathroom may increase the percentage of bacteria. I always keep my paper towel roll into my bags while outside. I know the cost issue and ecological harassment of using paper towel on a regular basis. But I can’t avoid the hygiene issue as well. At my home I always maintain to dry my hand using a hand dryer that is situated right out of my bathroom. I don’t know it’s OK or not.

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