Scientists have worked out the best way to dry your hands and it appears that paper towels not only dry hands quicker than electric driers, they are also more hygienic.
While the importance of washing hands is obvious, the benefits may be undone if they are not dried properly, experts said.
This is because wet hands are better at passing on germs than dry ones, biomedical scientist Cunrui Huang said.
His review of 12 studies found that, overall, paper towels were “superior”. One study found they leave hands 96% dry after just ten seconds. After 15 seconds, the hands are 99% dry.
By contrast, a drier takes at least 45 seconds. The amount of time is important because most people spend only a few seconds on drying their hands.
One study found men spend 17 seconds using hot-air driers and women 13.3 seconds – a fraction of the time needed.
Paper towels also scored higher because the rubbing motion may physically remove germs.
By contrast, air driers may blow them on to the body – a concern in public toilets, where regular flushing of cisterns disperses germs in the air.
“This can increase the number of germs by an astonishing 255 per cent,” said Keith Redway, senior academic in Microbiology and Molecular Biology at Westminster University.
Bacteria are then blown on to the hands of users and into the atmosphere.
This leads to the potential for the spread of organisms such as Salmonella and E. coli, as people often dry their hands before cleaning them properly.
In the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal, Dr. Cunrui Huang, of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, said: “There is a risk of persons standing at air driers acquiring the bacteria dispersed in the air current towards them.”
Cloth towel rolls were marked down because of the numbers of people using them.
Although antibacterial washes are essential in high-risk environments such as hospitals and beneficial on cruise ships and on planes, they are not necessary in daily life.
Previous studies have shown that hand dryers are often contaminated by bacteria in the outlet nozzle and the heat from the dryer is the perfect temperature to encourage their growth.
Keith Redway’s research has shown that disposable paper towels remove 58% of bugs and cotton roller-towels 45%.
“The message has to be to wash and then dry your hands thoroughly, using paper towels, not the hot-air dryers,” explained Keith Redway.