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Air Dryer Myth  


Hygiene is one of the most important factors in the development of modern society; keeping our hands clean is a major factor in avoiding the spread of germs.  Research suggests the most hygienic and effective way to dry hands is by using paper towels.

In 2008, the University of Westminster, London conducted a study to

compare the levels of hygiene offered by paper towels, warm air hand dryers and the more modern jet air hand dryers12.

The study concluded that:"The performance of both warm air dryers and jet air dryers was inferior to paper towels in all respects (drying efficiency, bacterial numbers on the hands, bacterial contamination of the air flow and surfaces of the devices, and transmission of bacteria in the washroom) with the one exception that the jet air dryer is equal in drying efficiency".
This research is supported by many NHS Trusts, which specify that only paper towels should be used in clinical areas.

Similar research has been carried out more recently by TUV in Germany with broadly similar findings13.  The study looked in more detail at the real world operation of high speed air dryers and found issues with bacteria spread arising from the actual operation of these machines.

Let’s address another related common misconception – the problem of trees being felled to make paper towels.  In reality, over 70% of the fibres used to make paper in the UK come from paper collected for recycling. The rest come mainly from virgin wood fibre from trees grown in sustainably managed and certified forests.

Finally, don’t forget that air dryers use electricity, the generation of which gives rise to CO2 emissions at power stations.

12 European Tissue Symposium (ETS), A comparative study of different hand drying methods: paper towel, warm air dryer, jet air dryer University of Westminster 2008
13 Report No.3026520 – comparative study on hand drying with paper towels and high speed air flow hand driers, August 2011


......© Confederation of Paper Industries, 1 Rivenhall Road, Swindon, Wiltshire SN5 7BD