Here’s the final word on this public bathroom question: What’s the most sanitary way to dry your hands: With an air blower, or a paper towel? The winner is: the paper towel!

Here’s why: researchers at the Mayo Clinic reviewed every hand-washing study done for the past 40 years. The result? Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water will remove almost all bacteria. And drying your skin completely is the best way to keep more germs from growing.

And people are more likely to use towels, because they’re faster. In one survey, most people used hand dryer briefly. Then wiped their damp hands on their jeans – or just opened the door with wet hands to save time. But infectious-disease expert Dr. Rodney Lee Thompson says that’s probably not smart – because some of the people who’ve touched the door didn’t wash up. And you could pick up whatever germs they left behind, especially on wet hands. In fact, he believes that all public bathroom doors should open outward, so you can push them open with your hip instead of your hands.

Another reason paper towels are better? Hand-dryers can blow bacteria up to 6 feet away. And believe it or not, towels are also more environmentally friendly, because it takes more energy to run a blower, than it does to make a paper towel. Some other bathroom germ advice from Dr. Thompson?

  • Use the bathroom stall closest to the door, because it’s the least-used, and the cleanest. People think it’s not as private so they typically use a stall farther away from the door.
  • Most people also use the sink closest to the toilets, which means, that sink has the freshest water. And that reduces your risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease, which is a bacteria that thrives in stagnant water.

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