How to Use a Hand Dryer

Two Parts:Operating a Hand DryerConsidering the Advantages and Disadvantages of Hand Dryers

Hand dryers are present in many public restrooms, but no one really discusses how to effectively operate them. While most people are aware that regular hand washing is a central part of good hygiene, effectively drying your hands is also key to staying healthy and reducing the spread of germs. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of hand dryers, and also offers quick instructions on how to operate them in a hygienic manner.

Part 1
Operating a Hand Dryer

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    Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands before using the dryer. Although drying your hands is important to reduce the spread of germs, washing your hands thoroughly is even more essential to good hygiene. Before using the hand dryer, follow these steps to wash your hands:[1]
    • Use warm or cold, clean running water to wet your hands.
    • Apply soap and lather your hands, rubbing them together and being careful to use soap on the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and underneath nails.
    • Take a minimum of 20 seconds to scrub your hands.
    • Rinse them under clean, running water.
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    Get rid of excess moisture from your hands. This can be accomplished by gently shaking your hands into the sink after you have finished washing them. The more moisture you remove, the faster it will be to use the dryer.
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    Follow the instructions on the unit. Most hand dryers feature diagrams and instructions showing users how to operate the unit most effectively and hygienically.
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    Place your hands under the unit. Many hand dryers available today automatically turn on when you place your hands under the unit.
    • This makes the dryer more hygienic to use because you do not have to push a button that countless other people have also touched.
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    Open your palms towards the jet of air and let the air push the water off the tips. Angle your palm slightly downward to encourage the water to roll off your hands.
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    Do not rub your hands together while holding them under the dryer. Although it might feel like rubbing your hands together while they under the dryer speeds up the process, this can actually increase the spread of bacteria.[2]
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    Wait until your hands are fully dry. Keep your hands under the dryer until they are completely dry, since wet hands increase the spread of germs.
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    Avoid sticking your hands inside the unit or touching the rim of the dryer. These places harbor bacteria, and you reduce the effectiveness of washing your hands by touching these potentially contaminated surfaces.You also place people who use the dryer after you at a greater risk. [3]
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    Walk away when you are done. Most hand dryers in use today also shut off automatically when you walk away or when you withdraw your hands from underneath the dryer. Some models also shut off after a specific amount of time.

Part 2
Considering the Advantages and Disadvantages of Hand Dryers

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    Save trees and water. Instead of reaching for the roll of paper towels, use a hand dryer to save trees and water.[4][5]
    • To replace the paper towels that we discard on a daily basis, 51,000 trees have to be cut down every day.
    • To produce one ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water are required.
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    Reduce waste. Using hand dryers as opposed to paper towels cuts down significantly on waste.[6]
    • On a global scale, our discarded paper towels result in an estimated 254 million tons of trash every year.
    • In the United States we consume over 13 billion pounds of paper towels every year.
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    Decrease the spread of germs caused by not drying your hands. While thoroughly washing your hands is the best way to prevent the spread of germs, drying your hands also decreases the spread of bacteria.[7][8]
    • According to the CDC, germs are more easily transferred to and from wet hands.[9][10]
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    Prevent water stains on your clothes. If you wash your hands and do not dry them, you usually end up with water stains all over your clothes. Use a hand dryer to prevent this from happening.
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    Evaluate the environmental impact of hand dryers. While hand dryers can help reduce your carbon footprint, they still have an environmental impact. They require electricity to run, and thereby play a role in carbon dioxide emissions.[11]
    • Drying your hands with the typical 2,200 watt warm air-dryer three times a day for one year produces 26.61 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.[12]
    • To evaluate the carbon footprint of using hand dryers, also think about how your local electric company generates electricity. The more coal it uses, the more carbon the dryer produces.[13]
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    Assess the health risks. Researchers have concluded that paper towels are the more hygienic and sanitary choice.[14] Here are some of the main reasons why hand dryers are less effective at decreasing the spread of germs: [15][16]
    • Dryers in public places are rarely cleaned.
    • People often stick their hands in the dryers or on the rim, leaving bacteria on the surface.
    • The dryers can blow bacteria onto other surfaces and onto people using them.
    • In a study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, researchers determined that jet dryers left 4.5 times more bacteria in the vicinity than warm-air dryers, and 27 times more bacteria than paper towels.[17] Other researchers, however, have questioned the methods employed in the study.[18]


  • Researchers agree that paper towels are a more hygienic and sanitary choice than hand dryers, so if you are worried about spreading germs, this might be the better option.


  • Don’t rub your hands together while using the hand dryer. This increases the spread of bacteria.
  • To avoid spreading germs, do not place your fingers inside the unit or touch the rim of the dryer.

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Categories: Health Hygiene | Personal Hygiene