Most people are aware that hand washing is an effective way to help prevent spreading germs. When washing in a public restroom, the question arises as to whether you should use the electric hand dryer or paper towels when you have a choice. Both have their pluses and minuses. With a little information, you can decide if you would rather use paper or electric.
Electric Dryers and Bacteria
A 2008 study conducted by scientists at the University of Westminster, London, and reported at the Clean Link website; found that electric hand dryers spread bacteria all over your hands. You might be better off not washing your hands at all than using an electric hand dryer, according to Keith Redway, a senior academic in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Westminster. The European Tissue Symposium, a trade group, which represents 90 percent of Europe’s tissue industry, commissioned this research study.
Paper Towels are Cleaner
When you dry your hands with a paper towel, you are reducing the bacteria on your fingers and hands by up to 76 and 77 percent, respectively. If you use a traditional warm air dryer, you will not be decreasing bacteria at all. In fact, you will increase the number of bacteria on your fingers and hands up to 194 percent and 254 percent, respectively. The newer, high-speed jet air dryers increase bacteria on your fingers and hands up to 42 percent and 15 percent, respectively, according to the Westminster study.
Contaminating the Air
Electric hand dryers blow contaminated air around the restroom. Jet air dryers contaminate a greater area than the traditional air dryers do, according to the Westminster study. Paper towels do not cross contaminate at all, unless possibly, if they overflow from the garbage can onto the floor. For hygiene reasons, paper towels are superior to electric hand dryers. Locations where hygiene is most important, such as hospitals, schools and restaurants, are wise to stick with paper towels, according to the Clean Link website.
Paper towels are less environmentally friendly than electric hand dryers are because of the way the paper towels are made. It takes a great deal of energy to turn raw fiber into paper. The bleaching process, used in some paper towels, pollutes the environment, according to the Rodale website. Disposal of the towels presents an environmental concern, too.
The Rodale website recommends that when you have a choice between paper and electric, that you should choose electric for the sake of the environment. This group bases their premise on a 2000 Mayo Clinic study that says that there are no bacterial differences between paper towels and electric dryers. The Westminster study, showing the bacterial differences, was conducted eight years later, making it a newer study, but also a potentially biased one.