Prioritizing Hand Hygiene in Shared Spaces

December 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of handwashing. Scrubbing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds helps diminish the spread of germs and bacteria in your condominium, where you work and everywhere in between.  But let’s not forget the importance of the second, and often overlooked, part of the hand hygiene process – hand drying.

For some people, hand drying might be an afterthought simply because they do not know much about it.  What the public should know about hand drying is that bacteria are more easily transmitted from wet hands than dry hands (Patrick et al., 1997).  This is a primary reason why hand drying needs to be a priority for everyone as they look to stay safe and healthy, especially those in buildings with common areas like condominiums.

Numerous studies have been conducted over the years to find out which is the superior method of drying hands – paper towels or air dryers.  Using paper towels to dry your hands not only removes the moisture from hands more quickly (Redway & Fawdar, 2008) and efficiently than other drying methods, but the friction caused by the towels allows for even further removal of microorganisms (Huang et al., 2012).  Moreover, paper towels serve as a protective barrier from recontamination after hand washing when used to turn off faucets and open doors.

Another study noted that paper towels spread 1,300 times less bacteria than jet air dryers over a large height range (0.15-1.65 meters) (Kimmitt & Redway, 2016).  This study also demonstrated that at all distances tested up to 3 meters/9.8 feet, paper towels spread 190 times less bacteria than jet air dryers.  Additionally, the immediate environment of the jet air dryer was 100 times more contaminated by viruses compared to paper towels 15 minutes after use of device.  Because paper towels work through water absorption and mechanical friction and not just an airstream, there is a smaller chance of bacteria or viruses being dispersed into the air.

Given the level of interaction between residents in a condominium, it might be time to re-think hand hygiene in your building.  In the United States, for example, a consumer survey we recently conducted showed a clear preference by Americans for more touchless technologies in public restrooms.  The top responses were paper towels from a touchless dispenser (74%), touchless ways to enter/exit the bathroom (62%), as well as automatic toilet flushers and touchless trash cans (59%).  Amidst current concerns about the pandemic, it wouldn’t be surprising to see similar sentiments across Canada and maybe even in your building.

Frederic Perreault is the Director at Cascades Research & Development, the research center for Cascades, a leader in sustainable, innovative and value-added solutions for packaging, hygiene and recovery needs.  Frederic started his career at Cascades in 2008 as a chemist involved in the development of innovative eco-friendly products, including fibre-based materials, packaging solutions, and paper hygiene solutions.  Today, he manages a team of 45 multidisciplinary scientists who support 90 of Cascades production sites across North America.

Hand drying solutions and products can be found on the Cascades web site at

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