For as long as there have been public restrooms, there’s been a dilemma we’ve all faced after we wash our hands: Paper towel or hand dryer?
Finally, we have an answer, thanks to the team at AsapSCIENCE. As it turns out, there’s definitely a greener choice, while the other is better for germaphobes.
Pro: Moisture is what spreads bacteria the most, so for people who can’t take the time for a hand dryer to completely dry their mitts, paper towels can do the job in 5 to 10 seconds. Friction also removes bacteria as well.
Con: This fact should scare you: 13 billion pounds of this throw-away product are used in the United States alone. To produce one ton of paper towels, it takes 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water.
Pro: It requires fewer resources and prevents deforestation and high carbon emissions.
Con: Using one takes at least 45 seconds to reduce hand moisture by 97 percent, even though most people only dry their hands for about 22 seconds. Some dryers might also blow bacteria back onto your paws due to contaminated bathroom air.
It really comes down to preference. But it seems the real answer is to wash your hands properly (scrubbing with soap for at least 20 seconds!) and you won’t even need to use either option to get rid of any germs remaining on your hands. After all, it’s important to keep your hands clean — about 80 percent of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch.
As the AsapSCIENCE video explains, if you must use a paper towel, try to use as few as possible. For hints on how to do that, check out this adorable video of Umatilla County District Attorney Joe Smith demonstrating how to dry your hand with a single sheet of paper towel.