Paper towels or Hand dryer?

In class, we briefly discussed the hand dryer vs. paper towel controversy during one of our pop quizzes. The results of the design was the acceptance of the null hypothesis- that neither paper towels or air drying had an effect on the cleanliness of hands post washing.  I decided to revisit that topic in order to see if there are any studies that contradict those results.  Before we were quizzed on this subject, I was going to make it the topic of one of my blogs since it has been such a large part of my freshman year so far in the residence halls, which only have hand dryers.  These hand dryers are very noisy and powerful, and have left many people on our floor complaining about their inconvenience and their wish that we had paper towels in our bathrooms.

A study tested the difference between the two by having participants drying their hands with paper towels and two different types of air dryers- warm and jet.  I imagine the jet air dryers are similar to those in the residence hall bathrooms.  The results conclude that the jet air dryers spread the most germs and bacteria while the paper towels spread the least amount.  There were flaws with the experimental design of this study.  First, the number of participants and number of trials was left out of the report.  These features are extremely important in determining if an experiment is well-conducted or not.  

Of course, there are many different aspects to this controversy that differ from the hygienic standpoint of it all.  Air dryers are favored when it comes to cost and friendliness to the environment.  According to the Washington Post, society favors paper towels over air dryers.

In class we have learned the importance of meta-analyses which help show whether a conclusion is correct or not.  If many studies have similar results, then those results are most likely not a fluke.  The Mayo Clinic performed a meta-analysis regarding the topic of hand dryers vs paper towels and concluded that paper towels are the cleaner option.  With that, this means there is a lot of data from various studies favoring paper towels.

To conclude, we now know paper towels are the healthier option to dry hands with.  Most people invest in hand dryers since they will save them money in the long run and are environmentally friendly.  Unfortunately, for those of us living in residence halls, it is more difficult for us to make this switch since we cannot control the bathroom conditions.

Image 1: http://www.edson.com/uploads/solutions/paper-towels-packaging-edson.jpg

Image 2: http://www.buyhanddryers.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Xlerator-300×300.png

1 thought on “Paper towels or Hand dryer?

  1. Trevor Dennehy

    I have always been a paper towels person myself. They always felt like they got the job done better than hand dryers, regardless of the fact that they are less environmentally friendly. Fortunately, for people who are worried about the environment and still want the cleanliness of paper towels, there are recycled paper towels, as well as other recycled products that serve various functions, as outlined in this article. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203718504577180852718515394 The cost will still be an issue for some people, as they are a little more expensive. Unfortunately though, many recycling agencies recommend that you don’t recycle used paper towels, so these recycled ones will be used for the last time once they are bought.

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