In a day and age when we’re most always on the move, the temptation to wash our hands on the go is real: Rinse and run, air dry on the go.
But if you don’t dry your hands after washing them, did you really wash them at all?
Unfortunately, the statistics say no.
“Wet hands spread germs more easily than dry hands do,” Mayo Clinic’s Pritish K. Tosh, M.D. notes. “As a result, it’s important to thoroughly dry your hands after washing.”
Damp hands are an ideal vehicle for bacteria to fester and spread. The bottom line: Wet hands are more likely to spread diseases.
“Bacteria thrives on damp surfaces — hands included,” Dr. David Webber, a veteran microbiologist and hand hygiene expert, told Cover Media. “There is research to suggest that 85 percent of microbes are transmitted by moist hands, compared with 0.06 by dry hands.”
The COVID-19 pandemic taught us all the hard way how essential regular hand washing is. But Webber notes, many Americans don’t fully understand the importance of dry hands and the best drying techniques.
“There has been no guidance on the correct procedures to dry hands,” Webber notes. “Not drying hands properly could be less hygienic than not washing them at all.”
The Dry Hands Playbook
Drying hands isn’t rocket science, but it does require attention to detail to be effective. Some ways naturally dry hands better than others.
The Drip-Dry Dodger is the worst drying technique. These hand washers don’t dry them at all, they just wash and go. The result: wet hands full of germs that transfer viruses and bacteria to all surfaces they contact.
The Surgeon Technique is the most proven, true way to guarantee dry hands after washing. Using a hand dryer to get into all the cracks of hands and make sure every nook is clear of bacteria.
Wringing hands under a dryer and using the extra friction to remove water droplets is also a sound drying method. Shaking hands to remove moisture before drying is also a winning drying technique. The paper towel technique, while not the most environmentally friendly drying option, also is a time-tested map to having clean, dry hands after washing.
As for the hotly debated dryers vs. towel debate, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls it a draw, stating there is no conclusive scientific evidence that points to either using a paper towel or an air hand dryer as being the superior way to reduce germs on your hands.
The Viral Dangers of Damp Hands
The reality is damp hands, even after being washed with soap and water, are not truly clean. Hands can only be fully cleansed of germs and bacteria by being thoroughly dried after washing.
“Damp hands can spread 1,000 times more bacteria than dry hands,” Heather Viola, DO, a primary care physician at Mount Sinai Doctors Ansonia, a New York City healthcare practice, tells Consumer Reports.
Whatever your preferred drying method is, make sure you’re not leaving the kitchen or restroom sink until your hands are 100 percent dry after washing.
“The bottom line is that any method that encourages people to dry their hands will prevent germ spread,” Consumer Reports’ Pang-Chieh Ho stresses.
For just like water needs hydrogen and oxygen to become H2O, your hands need both washing and drying to be truly clean.