Why Paper Towels Win the Hand-Drying Battle in Restrooms

Every time you step into a public restroom, you’re faced with a multitude of options for drying your hands. There are the ever-popular electric air dryers, seemingly capable of launching skin into orbit. Traditional cloth towels just keep rotating around, collecting who-knows-what. And, of course, the classic paper towel dispenser, just begging you to yank its handle. It turns out that your best bet for clean, dry hands is actually the good old-fashioned paper towel – at least according to a review by the Mayo Clinic.

But why have they reached this conclusion? Let’s take a closer look at the Mayo researchers’ analysis of 12 studies, investigating the hygiene efficacy of these different hand-drying methods. They looked into each option’s drying efficiency, bacteria removal, and prevention of cross-contamination. The results were clear: paper towels came out on top for being the most sanitary choice.

##The Case for Paper Towels

Here are a few reasons why paper towels win out over electric air dryers when it comes to keeping your hands clean and healthy:

  1. Paper towels prevent the spread of bacteria: When you dry your hands with paper towels, you’re actually rubbing off bacteria that may have lingered on your hands even after washing. On the other hand, an electric air dryer can blow bacteria back onto your hands and into the air, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.

  2. They’re more efficient: Most people don’t spend the recommended amount of time – around 45 seconds, according to a study by the University of Westminster – using an electric air dryer, often because they’re too impatient. As a result, they walk away with damp hands, which are more prone to retaining or transferring bacteria. Paper towels, on the other hand, can dry your hands fully in a matter of seconds, helping to ensure that your hands are as germ-free as possible.

  3. No need for physical contact: Some electric air dryers require you to insert your hands into an enclosed space, or even press a button to activate them. Both of these actions introduce the risk of unwanted direct contact with other people’s germs. With paper towel dispensers, especially those with motion sensors, you can just grab a towel and go, greatly reducing the risk of germ transfer.

  4. They make less of a mess: Electric air dryers tend to scatter water droplets all over the place, creating a damp and unhygienic environment that’s perfect for bacterial growth. With paper towels, you can neatly wipe off excess water and dispose of them right away, eliminating much of the potential for puddles and wet surfaces in restrooms.

Already, it’s clear why the Mayo Clinic researchers recommend paper towels as the preferred hand-drying method in healthcare settings. However, they don’t stop there. The researchers also point out the importance of how paper towel dispensers and restroom spaces themselves are designed, maintained, and used.

##Avoiding Contamination While Using Paper Towels

It’s not enough to simply declare paper towels as the superior hand-drying method. To truly maximize their potential, you should also consider the following advice to help minimize the risk of contamination:

  • Choose automatic, touchless paper towel dispensers whenever possible. These don’t require users to touch any surfaces, cutting down on the risk of germ transfer.
  • Make sure the restroom, especially the area surrounding the towel dispenser, is cleaned and appropriately maintained. Cleaning staff should sanitize all fixtures regularly, and users should avoid touching surfaces as much as possible.

  • Before grabbing a paper towel, turn off faucets with a paper towel or use hands-free options. Faucets are prime spots for germs to accumulate, so avoid direct contact to protect yourself from potential infection.

  • Finally, dispose of used paper towels properly in designated waste bins. This helps keep the restroom environment neat and tidy, preventing the spread of contamination through stray trash.

In summary, paper towels are undeniably the best choice when it comes to drying your hands in a public restroom. Not only do they provide a more efficient and sanitary hand-drying experience than electric air dryers, but they also minimize the risk of cross-contamination and bacteria growth. It’s up to you to use them responsibly and appropriately, in order to maintain good hygiene and protect your health as well as the health of others around you.