Woman holding her hands under an electric dryer in a restroom

Hand Dryers: The Dirty Truth about Keeping Your Hands Clean

You’ve heard that the best way to prevent the flu and stop other viruses is to wash your hands often and thoroughly. But what happens when you dry them?

Research shows that high-speed jet air dryers spread germs rather than remove them. Even warm air dryers spread germs.

Paper towels are king

Tried-and-true paper hand towels keep hands dry, which helps prevent wet hands from transmitting bacteria, according to a recent study. Compared to recycled paper towels, researchers found the eco-friendly jet air dryer spread 20 times more virus than the warm air dryer and over 190 times more than paper towels at six different heights and nine different distances. The impact of the virus was greatest at 2 ½ to 4 feet, which is about face-level of a younger child.

Avoid cloth towel dispensers too

When the roll gets to the end, the patch of cloth at the end gets used many times, which transmits germs from hand to hand.

How to make sure your hands are really clean

To be sure your hands are truly clean, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following –

  • Use warm or cold water. Wet your hands and apply soap.
  • Lather well. Wash the backs of your hands, between your fingers and beneath your nails.
  • Wash for 20 seconds – about as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.
  • Rinse well under clean, running water.
  • Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry.
  • Use paper towel to turn the faucet off and open the door.
Sources: Kimmit PT, et al. Jppl Microbiol. 2016; “Evaluation of the potential for Virus dispersal during hand drying: a comparison of three methods”, (accessed October 30, 2018), available at, “Show Me the Science – How to Wash Your Hands”, (accessed October, 2018), available at

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