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Before 2020, most of us probably thought we knew how to wash and dry our hands. What started out as a public health announcement on the proper procedure for hand-washing, soon turned into a viral meme, with people putting song lyrics to the images of hand washing. It’s a fun way to remember to thoroughly wash your hands for at least 40-60 seconds.

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You’ll notice that the handwashing part of the chart is extremely thorough, (which is how the meme got started) but the drying part only gets one little square. Drying your hands is just as important as washing them. You don’t want to get your clean hands contaminated before you even step out of the bathroom, do you?

Now, there are generally two options for drying your hands in a public restroom – hand dryer and paper towels. You might be surprised which of these three is the recommended way of drying your hands!


I for sure thought hand dryers would be the way to go, but that’s not the case at all. According to Sandra Kesh, a deputy medical director and infectious disease specialist, the best way to dry your hands is with a paper towel that you discard afterward.

She goes on to say that the goal of washing and drying is to remove as many viral particles as you can while also avoiding passing those germs on to any surfaces nearby.

Air dryers blow moisture off your hands, but the dryer could also launch moisture with viral particles into the air, thus clinging to your clothes, your arms, even your face. The water droplets also end up on the walls and floor, which does nothing to help prevent the spread of germs.


“With paper towels, you are capturing the viral particles in a confined location and removing them from the physical environment and then discarding them safely, in a garbage receptacle,” Kesh said.

Research backs up Kesh’s advice. One study showed that jet air drying resulted in significantly more viral contamination overall. The goal of handwashing is to get the germs off of you, while the goal of proper hand drying is to keep any remaining germs contained to prevent spreading them to others.


One last thing to note – make sure you’re disposing of your paper towels properly! Always throw your paper towels (and paper face masks, for that matter) directly into the garbage can. You might think it’s silly to have to say, but there was a serious problem not all that long ago where people discarded masks and paper towels on the ground.

In conclusion, hand washing and drying seems like an easy thing we all know how to do, but we can all use a good reminder, especially these days! Pass this information along to friends and family. That way we can all be safe and protect each other for harmful germs!

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