skip to Main Content

Hot Air Debate | Are electric hand dryers better than paper towels?

A new article, written by Eugene Lotter, was published enriching the discussion, whether electric hand dryers are better than paper towels. Eugene Lotter is an South-African journalist, who actively writes articels on healthcare topics at and on Muck Rack.

What the author calls the “hot air debate” comprises the ongoing controversy between paper industry and electric hand dryers. Key element of the discussion embodies the question which drying method is better – paper towels or electric hand dryers.

On the one hand, paper towels absorb moisture very quickly and have a low risk of cross contamination. On the other hand, the “good old paper towels” leave a big ecological footprint, as a large amount of water is needed for their production. Regarding electric hand dryers, the merits are obvious: The fact that the drying process only consists of hot or cold air and does not produce any waste, electric hand dryers have a great ecologic adventure on their side.

But are electric hand dryers unhygienic and germ spreaders? Lotter found articles, reaching back to year 1970, which call paper towels superior to the air drying method in terms of hygiene. But independently funded studies from 2000 contradict this point of view, as they did not find any statistically significant evidence that electric hand dryers were less hygienic.

Admittiedly, a study from 2016 found out that older hand dryer models may distribute more bacteria into the air and on the user’s hands. But two arguments relativize these findings: First, Lotter cites a study published in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, that analyzed the lifespan of different bacteria in four university restrooms. Researchers conclude that most bacteria use to perish quickly on cold bathroom surfaces and therefore, do not endanger a person’s health. Secondly, modern electric hand dryer models incorporate HEPA-filters, that effectivly reduces the amount of spread bacteria. Besides, the most effective way to get rid of bacteria is a proper hand-washing routine.

All in all, this article, as well as different independent studies and latest innovations, shows that electric hand dryers have a great potential to improve their performance. In the end, it is the paper industry that has to find a way to make their products more ecological. The strategy to defame competing innovative products will not convince people to buy ungreen paper towels in the long run.


Share this on: