Which Is More Sanitary: Hand Towels or Air Dryers?

Medically reviewed in March 2020

When you're in a public restroom, do you go for the paper towels or the air dryer after you wash your hands? To get your paws cleanest, choose the towels.

A recent study put each drying method to the test and revealed that rubbing hands thoroughly dry with paper towels may give people the best chance of walking out of the restroom with germ-free mitts.

Wet and Dirty
No matter which method you choose, you won't be rid of germs unless you dry your hands thoroughly. Germs love water. It's their ideal medium for multiplying and getting around. And the recent study found that putting in the time and effort to really dry hands completely will mean way fewer germs. And get this: Drying hands vigorously with a paper towel bested rubbing them dry under a blower when it came to germ levels. Seems the skin-on-skin friction created when we rub our hands under the blower somehow releases more germs that live deep in our pores. Ick.

High and Dry
If you just can't bear the earth-unfriendly thought of using paper towels, go ahead and use the blower. But don't rub your hands. Hold your hands still, palms up, and leave them there for at least 30 seconds -- but longer is even better. Whatever you do, don't give up and wipe them on your jeans or shirt sleeves. You'll just recontaminate your hands. And don't leave them wet. This just allows the "bad" germs to multiply and take up permanent residence with the "good" flora on your hands. Double ick. (Find out where germs are most likely to hide in your house.)

Here's another way not to get sick. Boost your immunity with these four foods.

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