There are many debates over the best ways to wash your hands but it is generally agreed that it is essential to follow the 20/20 rule (wash hands for 20 seconds and dry hands for 20 seconds).
Studies have shown that drying your hands thoroughly is as important as washing them correctly.
A study on hand drying methods was done by the University of Westminster in London. The results showed that using hand air dryers increases the bacteria count on your hands by as much as 255%. In contrast paper towels decreased the bacteria count by 58% and pull down cotton towels decreased the count by 45%. The study also highlighted that paper towels and cotton pull down towels were far more effective in actually drying your hands than air dryers. Air dryers were also proven to emit bacteria into the environment and onto your hands. To read more on the results of the study click on http://www.wmin.ac.uk/~redwayk/research/WADsummary98.htm.
Environmentally the question of whether paper towels or hand air dryers have a greater impact is a hard one to answer. According to the study done by J. Joanaz de Melo, L. Macedo & A. Galvão for the New University of Lisbon, Caparica, Portugal http://www.irbdirekt.de/daten/iconda/CIB11676.pdf there is very little difference between the two. Of course every individual uses a different amount of paper towels or dries their hands for different lengths of time. These variations are very hard to take into account when performing studies. However this study looked at the entire process from manufacturing through to disposal of the paper towels and the air dryers after their recommended lifespan of 5 years. The conclusion was that paper towels and electric dryers have very similar environmental effects.
Other studies have shown that Hand Air Dryers are better for the environment. Without truly consistent results we can’t make an informed conclusion so it is really a question of personal preference and personal costs.
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