RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Do swine flu worries or allergy-driven sneezes have you washing your hands more often than usual? That’s probably a good thing, since washing your hands frequently is a very effective way to prevent the spread of germs. But then you have to dry them off, and if you’re in a public restroom, that may leave wondering about the best option: paper towels or electric hot-air dryer?
This: Electric Hand Dryer
Pros: They’re efficient and they’re sanitary—and the newer models, at least, are fast. Old hand dryers required as much as 45 seconds to dry your hands (a hard sell compared to paper towels that wipe away water in a few seconds). But newer, hyperefficient dryers blast your hands dry in as little as 8 to 10 seconds. As for keeping your hands germ-free, a 2000 study from the Mayo Clinic found no difference between air dryers and paper towels at removing bacteria from wet hands.
Cons: Although new models have drastically cut down on electricity use, standard hand dryers use as much as 2,200 watts of power, making them a big drain on energy resources.
That: Paper Towels
Pros: They’re fast, they’re efficient, you don’t have to stand in one place, and they provide a convenient barrier between you and germy surfaces like faucet and door handles.
Cons: Unless the operator of your public restroom has a particularly strong environmental conscience, chances are the paper towels are made from virgin paper fibers and not recycled content. It takes a very large amount of energy to turn that raw fiber into paper, and if the towels are bleached, the process also involves polluting the environment. Plus, towels are messy, in many cases winding up on the floor and not in a trash bin, leading to unsanitary conditions.
Published on: May 5, 2009
Updated on: March 11, 2010