Paper Towels Versus Air Dryers: Which Is the Safer Way to Dry Your Hands to Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?

Kelly Vaughan

From wiping down groceries with a disinfectant wipe to wearing masks in public, we've all taken drastic measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in our communities. As some people return to their offices for work or start dining out in restaurants, many will start to question how to safely use public facilities including bathrooms. Whether it be in shopping malls or bars and restaurants, bathrooms are usually equipped with both paper towels and air dryers. So, what's the safest way to dry your hands in a public bathroom? While there's not a definitive answer, most experts agree that using paper towels is the safer option, Huffington Post reports.

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"With paper towels, you are capturing the viral particles in a confined location and removing them from the physical environment and then discarding them safely, in a garbage receptacle," says Sandra Kesh, a deputy medical director and infectious disease specialist at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, New York. And the science backs this fact up: A 2012 study from the Mayo Clinic found that surfaces touched by people who had jet-dried were more likely to be contaminated than those touched by people who had used paper towels.

Related: How to Wash Your Hands Properly, According to a Doctor

Paul Pottinger, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine, also notes that paper towels can be beneficial for things other than drying your hands; for example, you can also use paper towels when flushing the toilet, turning on a faucet, or opening a door handle. Paper towels aren't all good, though; they have a more negative environmental impact than air dryers. However, they're an extra preventative measure that is needed during this health crisis.

Of course, experts remind people that the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to wash your hands with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds. "Washing properly is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves from accidentally contaminating ourselves when we touch our face," says Pottinger.