Several sites describing how to wash your hands list drying as the last step. Some say you can use a clean towel or air dry them.

I've been curious about something for a while. What if I'm preparing some ingredient or recipe that requires or benefits from having wet hands? For example, handling ground meat with wet hands reduces sticking; sometimes you want to use wet hands to handle dough, either to add more moisture or prevent sticking. What if I'm just picking up vegetables and sticking them back under the running water to rinse them before cutting and cooking or eating them raw?

Is it unsanitary wash hands and skip drying them before handling food items? What types of contaminants are especially risky when doing this?

I prefer answers with sources from health or food safety agencies or organizations.

2 Answers 2


If you are immediately going to moisten your hands your hands anyway, I can't see a difference. But otherwise, food safety studies do say that you should thoroughly dry your hands after washing using a clean (or paper) towel.

Decades of research from hygiene authorities suggest that wet hands transfer bacteria much more readily than dry ones, as the residual moisture left on hands after leaving the wash station allows bacteria and viruses to transfer to food and solid surfaces by touch...

Multiple studies have looked at the effectiveness of air dryers versus hand towels and results strongly favor paper towels. For example, one study published by the University of Leeds in 2014 found that levels of airborne germs collected and counted near warm air dryers to be 27 times more than those near paper towel dispensers. Another paper, published in 2012 by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, which observed research from a dozen investigations, stated that “from a hygiene standpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers” and “should be ­recommended in locations where hygiene is paramount.”

-Food Quality and Safety Magazine (A source of peer-reviewed scholarly articles)


What I have on this issue comes more from an hospital-restauration point of vue than scientific papers but is considered good practice when dealing with cancer patients food (alongside a lot more of precautions obviously)

Bacterias and such are very water friendly, the use of soap merely gets them off your skin and into the water.

When you have finished washing your hands, the residual surface water is still polluted. Thing is with hair dryers is that it merely puff high velocity air on your wet hands which tends to vaporize the wet along with the pollution thus creating a bacterial fog on your person. Using paper towels will a contrario absorb the grand majority of the polluted water.

Plus there is something of a efficiency problem here. Basically if your hands are still wet after washing, it's equivalent to not have washed them. Thus a great variety of hair dryers are inoperant because you would have to use them for ten minutes or so to be completely dry, using paper towels is in this regard way more quick.

So the better thing to do here is to wash your hands with soap, dry them thoroughly with a paper towel and then put some gloves on.

  • Can you cite some resources for these claims?
    – Robert
    Apr 18, 2017 at 15:58

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