Hand drying myths

27 June 2017

Walk into any public or corporate restroom and you will find either an air hand dryer or paper towel dispenser or even both. The Occupational Health and Safety Act legislature states that it is compulsory for all businesses to provide this as well as toilet paper and soap.

But is one method of hand drying more hygienic than the other?

The debate has been raging for years.

Studies, articles and online opinion pieces range from one extreme to the other, with advocates on both sides of the fence.

Luckily, after extensive research, we have the answer. After all, we know hygiene.

Fact or fiction?

There are many different myths surrounding this controversial topic, and we’ll be looking at the most common one, which is:

Hot air hand dryers are infectious bombs of viral destruction which launch germs and bacteria into the air and onto your hands.

The reason this myth is so prevalent is that bacteria filled particles from flushing toilets can launch viruses and bacteria into the air and many people believe that conventional hand dryers recirculate this air without filtering it, which results in germs being spread back onto your body after drying your hands under one of these.

The truth

While there may be a nugget of truth to this, as some airborne bacteria can remain in the air for a few hours after flushing, and some studies did find that hot air hand dryers can spread 1,300 times more germs than using paper towels, the truth is that the air in bathrooms contains the least amount of germs compared to the rest of the bathroom.

For example:

  • Toilet handles contain roughly 40 000 germs per square inch
  • Bathroom sinks contain around 100 000 germs per square inch

Additionally, studies found that this is only true when people did not first wash their hands with soap and water. If someone had used the bathroom and then just rinsed their unwashed hands in water and proceeded to use the hot air hand dryer, the existing bacteria on their hands would be launched into the air and viruses can easily be spread.


This is definitely a concern as the statistics are quite shocking:

  • Of the 95% of people who claim to wash hands after using the toilet only 67% actually do
  • Only one in 20 people wash their hands properly after going to the toilet
  • Only 33% of people use soap when washing their hands after using the toilet

What this tells us is that often general office bathroom etiquette is not observed.

Furthermore the technology used in air hand dryers has drastically improved over the years, reducing the amount of germs and bacteria that actually get launched into the air and onto your hands.

Paper towels can reduce the amount of germs by up to 75%, but are by no means the best option out of the two. The only difference is that a lot of people prefer to use air hand dryers due to environmental reasons.


Air dryers aren’t perfect, but they’re hardly as sinister and unhygienic as some claim to be either.

So whatever your preference is when it comes to hand drying, whether it be paper towel, hot air dryers or even cotton, the best weapon against germs, it turns out, is still washing hands with soap and water after using the bathroom.

At Bidvest Steiner, we have a range of hand drying solutions, whatever your specific need.

Contact us today if your company requires a professional hygiene or pest solution.

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