Hand dryers or paper towels – which is more hygienic?

We asked a doctor for her view on the most hygenic way to dry our hands. Her answer might surprise you...


Here at MFM HQ, we do love those kind of gross but fascinating germ experiments that people set up.


There was the one with the pieces of bread and child’s hand prints that reveal why kids really need to wash their hands regularly.

Now, Californian mum Nichole Ward has shared the above pic of all the lovely stuff that developed when she put a petri dish under a public hand dryer for 3 minutes.

We don’t know much about how she collected this sample, to be honest, but she did write this alongside the photo (which, naturally, post went viral):

“Ok guys.. ready to have your mind blown?!

“This here, Is what grew in a petri dish after just a few days. I stuck the open plate in an enclosed hand dryer of a public bathroom for a total of 3 minutes.

“Yes 3 only. DO NOT EVER dry your hands in those things again.

“This is the several strains of possible pathogenic fungi and bacteria that you’re swirling around your hands, and you think you’re walking out with clean hands. You’re welcome. 

 “⚠️this post is simply for awareness, not to instill fear⚠️”

Blimey ?

Now, we know that lots of you don’t like to use hand dryers for another reason – many of you have told us your little ones are really scared of the OTT super-loud noise so many of them make.

But what about the hygiene aspect, too? Are we actually better off using a good old paper towel? (Though, of course, we know that’s not great for the environment).

A doctor’s view on hand dryer hygiene

We checked in with Dr Philippa Kaye on this one and she did say that, of course, without knowing more information about how Nichole collected and then incubated her sample it is a bit difficult to comment on this specific pic.

However, she could tell us:

“There have been various studies about hand dryers vs paper towels vs fabric hand towel rollers, with the hand driers using various filters to try and prevent bacterial spread.

“What seems to be clear is that the hand-washing is the most important step here. 

“If you wash your hands correctly and for a long enough period of time then there won’t be many bacteria to be blown around. 

“And yes – many children, including my own, are terrified of the loud noise that a Dyson Airdryer makes (to be honest they are pretty loud) – so I would focus on washing the hands well in the first place!”

Good tip, doc ?

Image: Nichole Ward on Facebook

Dr Philippa Kaye is a London GP who has written several books on pregnancy and childcare including The First Five Years. See www.drphilippakaye.com and follow her on twitter @drphilippakaye

Read more:


Comments ()

Please read our Chat guidelines.