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Hand drying methods

Hands play a huge role in cross-contamination and are one of the largest risk factors in the spread of pathogens. Historically, the idea of hand hygiene practice has been associated with hand washing, however, there is an increasing recognition of the importance of antimicrobial hand gels and hand drying in this process. There is also recognition that what is important in hand hygiene is the integrated benefits of washing, rinsing and drying, as well as the prevention of subsequent recontamination.

Thorough hand drying after washing is an essential component of good hand hygiene practice particularly as the risk of cross-contamination is more likely to occur from wet hands than dry hands. One study found that wet hands can spread up to 1,000 times more bacteria than dry ones, especially if sub-optimal hand washing has taken place.

Before deciding on the ideal hand drying method, businesses should compare different types of hand drying methods to understand which one is best suited to their requirements and want to invest in such as drying hands with paper towels or an automatic hand dryer.

The points below outline the relative merits of different hand drying methods:


  • Removal of bacteria/moisture: one of the most effective drying methods and thought to be particularly effective in removing microorganisms from fingertips
  • Recontamination potential: paper towels that are left unprotected on washroom services are most likely to be contaminated
  • Contamination of the atmosphere: if poorly disposed of, paper towels could present a recontamination risk
  • Green credentials: considered to be more harmful than air dryers. This can depend on the region and paper type as the towels may not be recyclable

Warm air dryer

  • Removal of bacteria/moisture: conflicting results and considered less effective than paper and jet blade. Research found that the number of microorganisms increased after drying
  • Recontamination potential: hand air dryers need to be regularly cleaned and maintained. Studies have revealed high microbial counts in internal dust/debris
  • Contamination of the atmosphere: a hand dryer is considered unsuitable for the food, healthcare and other critical care industries. Studies indicate risk of environment and atmospheric contamination
  • Green credentials: air hand dryers are considered to be better for the environment than paper towels

Jet hand dryer

  • Removal of bacteria/moisture: studies suggest it is as effective in removing moisture as paper towels and more effective at removing moisture than warm air hand dryers
  • Recontamination potential: some can lead to pooling of moisture in the internal base. They have the overall highest levels of contamination compared to other hand drying methods
  • Contamination of the atmosphere: risk of contamination may be over 60x greater than air dryers and 1300x more than paper towels
  • Green credentials: considered to be better for the environment than paper towels

The best drying method should be selected if it is widely preferred by the employees, energy efficient, reduces the maximum amount of moisture and microorganisms from the hands and is quick to use. No individual hand drying method fulfils the listed requirements, however, all should be managed and maintained appropriately.

Find out more on Calmic washroom products

Ensures the right hand drying solution is provided for your washroom visitors

Our paper towel dispenser features the same antibacterial surface as our soap dispensers and ensures towels are always free from contamination.

Our highest quality dispensers encase toilet paper to further reduce the spread of airborne bacteria – ideal for preventing cross contamination.

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