Everyone has probably been reminded by their loved ones to wash their hands at least once during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). This comes after medical experts said that the best way to stay healthy amidst the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
But sometimes, when we’re in a hurry, we forget to wash our hands for 20 seconds or in a span of two “Happy Birthday” songs. This is what some experts would categorize as “poor handwashing,” or ineffective washing, since you are not completely washing away all the microbes in your hands. This could contribute to the spread of illnesses such as COVID-19.
But there is another handwashing fact that humans should learn and understand: Paper towels are better than hand dryers. You read that right! Despite its efficiency in drying freshly washed hands, it is less effective in removing microbes left due to ineffective washing.
A new study by researchers the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust found that drying hands with jet dryers can cause a greater level of contamination than when you use a paper towel. “Paper towels should be the preferred way to dry hands after washing and so reduce the risk of virus contamination and spread,” lead researcher Ines Moura said.
For the study, they put bacteriophage—a virus that affects bacteria but not humans—on four volunteers’ hands. They dried their hands with either the hand dryer or the paper towel, went out, and touched different surfaces such as handrails and door handles. Both drying methods did reduce the number of microbes on the volunteers’ hands but out of 11 samples (surfaces), 10 showed that the hand dryer method posed a greater risk of contamination.
At the end of the day, it’s still up to our handwashing technique if we’ll be spreading viruses and diseases. “If people do not wash their hands properly, then other people may be at risk if standing close to someone using such a jet dryer,” medicine professor Paul Hunter explained, “this study reinforces the need to wash hands properly so as much virus is removed as possible before drying.”