The importance of hand washing with soap to prevent spread of infection is widely accepted by scientists. However, hand hygiene has received much less attention.

Some harmful microbes remain on the hands after washing, and these are more easily spread around if hands are not dried adequately.

Proper hand drying completes the hand washing process by reducing the risk of transmission of microbes.

Generally available hand drying methods in public washrooms are based on either water absorption (single use towels-paper or textile) or water dispersal (warm air or high velocity electric dryers).

There is evidence that hand drying using single use towels rather than electric dryers leads to lower numbers of microbes on hands and in the washroom (both in the air and on surfaces)

Warm air dryers are less efficient than other methods at drying the hands. Damp hands are more likely to transfer microbes.

High velocity air dryers are particularly likely to blow microbes from hands across the washroom. These microbes could contaminate the user, other persons and the air and surfaces in the washroom.

In conclusion, the choice of hand drying methods should take into account the risk of contaminating the hands, other individuals and the washroom, especially in settings where hand hygiene is very important.

*Extras from the European Tissue Paper Industry Association

The list of scientific literature that the scientific panellists reviewed before the panel meeting is available at http://www.europeantissue.com/hygiene/scientific-literature-on-hygienic -hand-drying/