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Paper towels ‘more hygienic way’ to dry hands than dryers

  • 5 Comments

Single use towels are the most hygienic way to dry hands after visiting the toilet, according to research by the University of Westminster.

The authors of the research said their findings should have implications for guidance on hospital hygiene and other settings.

The study, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, looked at the potential for microbial contamination from hand drying and the potential risks for the spread of microbes in the air, particularly if hands are not washed properly.

“These findings clearly indicate that single-use towels spread the fewest microbes of all hand-drying methods”

Keith Redway

The researchers compared differences between drying methods and their capacity to spread microbes from the hands of users potentially to other people in public toilets.

Paper towels, a textile roller towel, a warm air dryer and a jet air dryer were compared using three different test models – acid indicator using lemon juice, yeast, and bacterial transmission from hands when washed without soap.

The researchers found the jet air dryer spread liquid from users’ hands further and over a greater distance – up to 1.5 m – than the other drying methods.

They also recorded the greatest spread of microbes into the air at both near and far distances for each of the tested models. Levels recorded at close distance for a jet air dryer revealed an average of 59.5 colonies of yeast compared with an average of just 2.2 colonies for paper towels.

At a distance of 0.2 m the jet air dryer recorded 67 colonies of yeast, compared with only 6.5 for paper towels. At a distance of 1.5 m the jet air dryer recorded 11.5 colonies of yeast, compared to zero for paper towels.

Study author Keith Redway said: “These findings clearly indicate that single-use towels spread the fewest microbes of all hand-drying methods.

“The extent to which jet air dryers disperse microbes into the washroom environment is likely to have implications for policy guidance to facilities managers operating in a wide range of environments from sports venues and airports through to schools and hospitals,” he said.

The research was commissioned from the university by the European Tissue Symposium, which represents the paper industry.

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Readers' comments (5)

  • This was first demonstrated about 10 years ago, I think by another nursing study in this country

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  • Ben McDonnell | 9-Apr-2015 7:35 pm

    When I saw the headline, my thoughts were, this news is from years ago!!! Apart from anything else, it's obvious.

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  • This research was funded by the paper towel industry and does not cover all hand dryers most notably the new generation of cold plasma hand dryers that have been demonstrated using E1153 International test method for Efficacy of Sanitizers to actively kill MRSA, eColi, Salmonella, Staph, influenza contained on vitro skin and in other technologies the same technology has been proven to work on c-diff and norovirus. This research was funded by the paper towel industry and used very effectively as PR but is nowhere near the whole picture.

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  • Haven't read study but if spreading microbes is happening using air dryer is that an indication of dirty air drying machine, poor hand hygiene or both?

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  • Wonder why on-one has invented a suction hand dryer?

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