In this article, industry manufacturers answer common questions asked by members of the industry

How do you respond to recent studies that suggest hand dryers are “unhygienic” since they are sucking in and blowing out “polluted” restroom air onto hands?
When dirty washroom air is drawn through the HEPA filter, it captures 99.97 percent of bacteria and other microorganisms. Hands are dried using cleaner air, not dirty air. The HEPA filter is a complex web structure made of bonded glass fibers. Most warm air hand dryers do not use filters. And if they do, these filters are made from simple gauze or foam. This means they do not remove a significant proportion of bacteria as gaps in the filter are many times greater than bacteria so they pass straight through.

— Rob Green, engineer, Dyson, Chicago

There is a significant amount of research that refutes this. A study published in the “Journal of Microbiology” in 2000 found no significant difference in the level of micro-organisms following hand drying with warm air vs. paper towels. Another study by Mayo Clinic in 2000 similarly found no significant difference in bacterial removal between papers towels and warm air dryers.

In April of 2009, a Pharmaceutical Microbiology Forum newsletter article reviewed several research projects on paper towel vs. air dryers and concluded that there is no strong, unambiguous evidence in favor of either approach. What it reported is that the washing of hands needs to be complete, and the hands completely dried (however that is accomplished). Technique and procedure again seem to be paramount in minimizing transmission.
— Dan Storto, senior vice president, sales and marketing, World Dryer, Berkeley, Ill.

This is a false statement. Dryers have air filters as an added option that eliminate this perception all together. If it were the case of people getting sick there would be a breakout of a lot of people getting sick from hand dryers in public areas.
— Kevin Knapp, director of sales and marketing, Palmer Fixture, Green Bay, Wis.

Several scientific studies have been published in well-known medical reviews on the health benefits and hygienic superiority of warm air dryers. Hand dryers are almost unanimously declared to be more sanitary than other drying techniques. In fact, because of the dry atmosphere caused by constant heating, bacteria counts are often two to four times lower inside the dryer than on other surfaces in the washroom, such as sinks, door knobs and soap dispensers.

Simply put, the hand dryer does not add any bacteria to the restroom air, they use the same air you are breathing and your hands are coming in contact with. Dryers with heating elements actually can burn off any bacteria that come in contact with the coils.

Unlike paper towels, hand dryers leave no refuse behind, which can carry bacteria, and hands-free models alleviate the need to touch any surfaces at all in order to dry hands. Facility owners seeking to maximize hygiene in their restroom facilities should install as many hands-free fixtures as possible. In addition to hand dryers, auto-flush toilets, automatic faucets and soap dispensers are all readily available. The added benefits are improved hygiene, less overall product waste and significant cost savings

Independent 3rd Party Hygiene Studies on Hand Dryers and Paper Towels include:
• "American Journal Of Infection Control" – Most recent study released in December of 2011 that found bacteria on unused paper towels;
• Mayo Clinic Study – Performed in 2000 stating that proper hand washing is the key to hand hygiene regardless of drying method;
• Summary Sheet – Summary of studies performed with results dating back to 1953.
— William Gagnon, vice president of marketing and key accounts, Excel Dryer, East Longmeadow, Mass.

The only studies that suggest this are funded by the paper towel manufacturers. Over the past 40 years, several studies have been published in well-known medical reviews on the health and benefits and hygienic superiority of hand dryers. Pier reviewed studies from the Mayo Clinic and other prestigious institutions favor hand dryers. In contrast, Laval University in Canada tested six brands of commercial paper towels and found high bacterial counts in all of them — especially those made from recycled fibers.
— Michael E. Robert, vice president sales and technology, American Dryer Inc., Livonia, Mich.