Germs 1,300. Hand Dryers 1.

Germy HandsEver since the invent of the modern, high speed hand dryer there has been much debate about which is better – paper towels or hand dryers? With today’s technology, high-tech hand dryers have been proven to offer superior cost and energy savings over their life cycle – a savings of up to 98% versus paper towels. But when it comes down to which removes more germs, scientists have disagreed. In a new research study from the University of Westminster, scientists have concluded that hand dryers are not the more hygienic option. If fact, Dyson Airblades have been shown to spread 1,300 times more germs than paper towels, and 60 times more germs than traditional hand dryers. This article, written by Adam Boult, for the April 16, 2016 issue of The Telegraph details the recent study findings – as well as some of the ongoing industry debate.

So which side are you on – paper towels or hand dryer?

When the new generation of high-speed hand dryers began to arrive in public loos seven years ago, clean freaks rejoiced at these hi-tech machines that were said to dry hands in just ten bacteria-busting seconds.

But there’s a downside, it seems, after a report last month revealed they’re also unbearably noisy.

Dyson Airblade hand-driers spread 60 times more germs than standard air dryers, and 1,300 times more than standard paper towels, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

University of Westminster researchers carrying out the research dipped their hands into water containing a harmless virus. They then dried their hands with either a Dyson Airblade, a standard hot-air dryer, or a paper towel.

According to their findings, the Dyson drier’s 430mph blasts of air are capable of spreading viruses up to 3 meters across a bathroom. The standard drier spread viruses 75cm, and the hand towels 25cm.

James Dyson, inventor of the AirbladeCredit: Newspix/Rex/Shutterstock

In 2014 a similar study by researchers from the University of Leeds found that airborne germ counts were 27 times higher around jet air dryers in comparison with the air around paper towel dispensers.

Research lead Professor Mark Wilcox said: “Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it. You may also be splattered with bugs from other people’s hands.

“These findings are important for understanding the ways in which bacteria spread, with the potential to transmit illness and disease.”

The earlier study was funded by the European Tissue Symposium. A spokesman for Dyson said at the time: “This research was commissioned by the paper towel industry and it’s flawed.

“They have tested glove covered hands, which have been contaminated with unrealistically high levels of bacteria, and not washed.”


In February this year Dyson released a video on its YouTube channel hitting back at claims that paper towels are more hygienic than its hand-driers.

Titled “Paper’s Dirty Secret”, a voiceover on the video says: “Independent research shows that before they even reach the washroom, paper towels can contain large communities of culturable bacteria.”

“Once in the washroom, bacteria in the air and contamination from previous users can be picked up by paper towels … Up to 88% of unused paper towels contain bacteria.”

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