Are Hand Towels Sanitary? Answered!

hand towels

In the quest for good hand hygiene, the debate over the sanitary merits of hand towels versus hand dryers has raged on. Are hand towels truly sanitary, or should we rely on hand dryers to maintain cleanliness?

This article aims to unravel this conundrum while also delving into effective cleaning tips to ensure that your hand towels remain hygienic.

The Hand Towel vs. Hand Dryer Debate

When it comes to drying your hands, two primary options prevail: hand towels and hand dryers. Each has its merits and drawbacks in terms of hygiene, and the choice often boils down to personal preference and the specific environment in which they are used.

Hand Towels:


  • Immediate drying: Hand towels provide a quick and effective way to dry your hands, making them a convenient choice, especially in busy public spaces.
  • Physical removal of moisture: Towels physically remove moisture from the skin, which can be more efficient than air drying in terms of hygiene.


  • Accumulation of germs: Over time, hand towels can accumulate germs and bacteria if not cleaned and replaced regularly.
  • Maintenance: Regular washing and proper storage are essential to keep hand towels sanitary.

Hand Dryers:


  • Touchless operation: Modern hand dryers often incorporate touchless sensors, minimizing the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Cost-effective and eco-friendly: Hand dryers reduce paper waste and can be more environmentally friendly in the long run.


  • Prolonged drying time: Some hand dryers may require more time to effectively dry hands, which can lead to user frustration and less thorough drying.
  • Airborne germs: Hand dryers can potentially disperse airborne germs in the restroom environment.

In short, hand towels reduce bacteria by up to 77% as compared to hand dryers. They don’t spread pathogens through the air.

Are Hand Towels Sanitary?

The hygiene of hand sanitation towels largely depends on how they are used, maintained, and cleaned. Hand towels can be a sanitary option when proper care is taken. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Frequency of Washing: Hand towels should be washed regularly, ideally after every use or at least once a day in a shared environment. Frequent washing helps remove accumulated germs and maintains cleanliness.
  • Proper Drying: After use, hand towels should be hung in a way that allows them to air dry thoroughly. Damp towels can become breeding grounds for bacteria and mold.
  • Separate Towels for Hands and Body: In shared spaces like bathrooms, it’s a good practice to use separate towels for hands and bodies to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Regular Replacement: Over time, hand towels can become worn, leading to reduced effectiveness in drying and potential hygiene concerns. Replace them when they show signs of wear and tear.
  • Avoid Sharing Towels: In households or shared spaces, it’s advisable to avoid sharing towels to minimize the risk of spreading germs.

Also read, how to get rid of sanitation towel smell. 

Cleaning Tips to Sanitize Hand Towels

To ensure that your hand towels remain sanitary and free from harmful bacteria, follow these cleaning tips:

  • Washing Frequency: As mentioned earlier, wash hand towels frequently, especially if they are used in a high-traffic area. Use hot water and an effective laundry detergent.
  • Disinfecting: Periodically, consider adding a disinfectant or antimicrobial agent to your laundry load. This can help kill germs and bacteria effectively.
  • Proper Storage: Store hand towels in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to mold and bacterial growth. Avoid leaving damp towels in a heap.
  • Avoid Fabric Softeners: Fabric softeners may leave a residue on towels that can reduce their absorbency. Opt for mild detergents without added fragrances or softeners.
  • Drying: Dry hand towels thoroughly in direct sunlight when possible, as sunlight has natural disinfectant properties. Alternatively, use a hot dryer setting.
  • Replace Regularly: Keep an eye on the condition of your hand towels. When they start to fray or become discolored, it’s time to replace them with fresh ones.
  • Color Coding: In shared spaces, consider color-coding towels to differentiate between uses. For example, use white towels for hands and colored towels for the body.

Read, kitchen sanitation towel rules. 

The Role of Personal Hygiene

In the hand towel vs. hand dryer debate, personal hygiene practices also play a significant role in maintaining cleanliness. Regardless of the method you choose for hand drying, it’s essential to follow proper hand washing techniques:

  • Hand Washing: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, ensuring that all surfaces, including the backs of your hands and under your nails, are cleaned.
  • Drying Hands: Whether you use a hand towel or hand dryer, ensure that your hands are completely dry. Wet hands can harbor more germs.
  • Avoid Touching Surfaces: After washing and drying your hands, use a towel or a tissue to open the restroom door to minimize contact with potentially contaminated surfaces.
  • Hand Sanitizer: In situations where hand washing facilities are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.

The Verdict: Hand Towels Can Be Sanitary

In conclusion, the sanitary nature of hand towels depends on how they are used and maintained. When used in conjunction with proper hand hygiene practices, hand towels can be a sanitary choice for drying your hands.

Regular washing, thorough drying, and vigilant cleaning routines are essential to keep hand towels free from harmful germs and bacteria.

However, it’s important to note that both hand towels and hand dryers have their merits and drawbacks. The choice between them should consider factors such as convenience, environmental concerns, and the specific needs of the setting in which they are used.

Ultimately, the key to maintaining hygiene is not just the method of drying but also the commitment to good hand hygiene practices.

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