Science solves the hand dryer vs. paper towels debate

Watch this—and then go wash your hands.


Marisa Kabas

Internet Culture

Published Sep 18, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 1:45 pm CDT

Everyone has that gross friend who refuses or forgets to wash his (or her!) hands after using the restroom. But for those of you who don’t enjoy spreading fecal bacteria, a handy video from AsapSCIENCE explains the merits of paper towels vs. hand dryers.

A lot of people prefer paper towels—they’re more efficient, time-wise, and it turns out that’s part of what makes them better at removing bacteria. It takes about 45 seconds to remove 97 percent of the moisture from your hands using a standard hand dryer, but just 10 seconds with a paper towel.

That’s important to note, because moisture is a great conduit for bacteria. If you stick around long enough to completely dry your hands with air dryer, paper towels and dryers work about the same. But we’re often too impatient for that.

So while hand dryers are better for the trees and the lakes and the streams and the baby animals, you can still use paper towels—and less of them—by following the example in the video.

Photo by JeepersMedia/photopin (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Sep 18, 2014, 7:30 pm CDT