University of Arizona Study finds Hand Dryers Equally Hygienic to Paper Towels for Drying Hands
What did they study? And why?
The great debate of hand dryers vs. paper towels has gone on for years through studies largely funded by the paper towel industry and most recently by way of news articles and viral social media posts. The problem with these stories is that they are often one-sided and written in a manner to either sensationalize—illicit fear—or both. In short: they do not tell the whole story or share the whole truth.
To correct myths and educate the public, researchers at The University of Arizona conducted a study to answer the following questions:
- Are hand dryers more hygienic than paper towels?
- Are paper towels safer than hand dryers relative to human infection risks?
Hand dryers and paper towels have been found to be equally hygienic through a review of available results of scientific research studies.
- The majority of the studies were sponsored by industries with potentially biased interests. Five studies favoring paper towels were funded by The European Tissue Symposium, a trade association that represents the majority of tissue paper producers throughout Europe. Additionally, 4 of these 5 studies were conducted by the same researchers.
- Few were conducted using real-world scenarios.
- Many studies lacked scientific rigor, meaning their findings weren’t based on scientific findings so much as generalizations or personal feelings.
- Gray literature including social media posts and news stories were often found to be one-sided and not credible.
The most credible study was published in 2000 by the Mayo Clinic, Effects of 4 Hand-Drying Methods for Removing Bacteria From Washed Hands: A Randomized Trial, the text of which reports no significant difference among hand drying methods. “…there is no difference in bacteria counts when drying with paper towels or hand dryers.”
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