Are jet air dryers blowing your good hygiene practices?

Are jet air dryers blowing your good hygiene practices?

In a time when hand hygiene is at the forefront of keeping safe in the workplace, we spoke to the experts at Kimberly Clark Professional about why single-use paper hand towels are the most effective, and most hygienic, hand-drying solution1.

Is there a hygiene issue with jet air dryers? Why should we all care?

Because 95% of adults don’t wash their hands long enough to remove bacteria and germs, they can remain on hands after washing. So, where do those remaining bacteria and germs go when using a jet air dryer? They blow off in water droplets and can travel as far as 6-1/2 feet. And those aerosolized bacteria can linger in the air for up to 15 minutes. In fact, jet air dryers can increase the germ count on fingers by up to 42%.

What does science say about jet air dryers?

Research shows that inner surfaces of jet air dryers have up to 48 times more contamination than the average toilet seat. Among the findings from a University of Westminster study, the research found high-speed and warm-air dryers can harbour bacteria on surfaces and inside dryers. This could lead to cross contamination if users reach inside and touch the surface of the unit or when bacteria could be carried in the airstream and deposited on wet hands – these germs include fecal bacteria such as E. coli, as well as Staphylococcus.

An article in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal analysed the hygienic efficacy of these hand-drying methods. Their recommendation was that use of paper towels is the best hand-drying option in locations where “hygiene is paramount,” such as hospitals and clinics.1

Don’t filters inside the jet air dryers make the surrounding air clean?

The filter ensures that the air blowing on hands is clean; however, with nearly 95% of adults not washing long enough to thoroughly clean the bacteria and germs from their hands, it cannot stop the water on hands from being aerosolized and blown back into the restroom.

In fact, using a jet air dryer can disperse up to 1,300 times more germ particles than just drying with paper towels, and a 2013 Eurofins study found that 1 in 8 floors below jet air dryers had Staphylococcal counts > 10 million (per 100 cm2). Even more surprising, 70% of the germs spread by jet dryers landed at the height of a child’s face.

What are the biggest advantages of paper towels over jet air dryers?

Towels can scrape off germs that remain after washing. Single-use towels reduce bacteria on hands, removing up to 77% of the bacteria that remains after washing.

Towels may increase hand hygiene compliance. According to the Mayo Clinic Proceedings review paper, “…given the strong preference for using paper towels, hand hygiene adherence would possibly decrease if paper towels are not available in washrooms.”1

People prefer towels! An observational study during ISSA/Interclean in Amsterdam in 2016 revealed that 90% of people showed a behavioural preference for paper towels over jet air dryers in the washroom. Faced with a choice of drying methods, 90% of men and 91% of women chose paper towels over jet air dryers.

Are you ready to reach a higher standard of hygiene? Kimberly-Clark Professional™ innovative solutions help limit the spread of germs, making every touch count in protecting your employees and customers.

Scott® and Kleenex® branded hand towels made in Australia with AIRFLEX* technology, a process that uses up to 30% less fibre, and contain ABSORBENCY POCKETS*. Designed to allow people to use fewer towels and create less waste.


1 Huang C, Ma W, Stack S, “The Hygienic Efficacy of Different Hand-Drying Methods: A Review of the Evidence,” Mayo Clin Proc, 2012; 87(8): 791-798.