CPI reinforces the need for frequent hand washing to control COVID-19

29 May 2020

Personal hygiene is vital in the battle against coronavirus.  Frequently washing hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from contracting the virus and spreading it to others.  As things begin to return to normal and we move out of coronavirus lockdown there will be a renewed emphasis on the importance of hand washing. 

Public Health advice states that you should wash your hands thoroughly, in warm water with soap, for at least twenty seconds.  Once your hands are cleaned, they should be dried thoroughly as microbes spread more easily on damp surfaces.    

A growing body of research identifies that for infection control, then single use paper towels are the safest hand drying method.  Paper towels complete the process of hand drying and remove microbes from hands, catching any abraded materials on the paper, so minimising the risk of them spreading through air or on surfaces.   

Both National Health Service and World Health Organisation hand washing guidelines recommend use of a disposable paper towel to dry hands (and also using a paper towel to turn off the tap).
By contrast, research has shown that electric dryers increase this risk of airborne microbes, and indeed there is evidence that high velocity air dryers can blow microbes off the hands and across the washroom.  Microbes have been detected in the air for at least 15 minutes after the use of electric dryers.

In addition, in hospital and health-care locations a focus on preventing cross-contamination of patients and staff has resulted in several studies recommending that disposable paper towels should be used in preference to air dryers. 

Indeed a multisite hospital study (involving hospitals in the UK, France and Italy) illustrated that different hand drying methods have important implications for the spread of microbes in real world settings.   

Andrew Large, Director General of the Confederation of Paper Industries said, 

"Washing your hands is vital in protecting yourself and others from the coronavirus. Once hands are washed, then drying also has an important role to play in making sure hands are free of virus.  

I would encourage people to use disposable paper towels to reduce the risk of spreading and catching the virus. Paper towels have an important role to play in helping to fully dry hands, and also physically rubbing off any remaining microbes.  Disposable paper towels should of course be properly disposed of after use.

The ‘catch it – bin it – kill it’ paper towel message has never been more important!"


Notes to Editors:

CPI is the leading trade association representing the UK’s Paper-based Industries, comprising paper and board manufacturers and converters, corrugated packaging producers, makers of soft tissue papers, and collectors of paper for recycling.

CPI represents an industry with an aggregate annual turnover of £11 billion, with 56,000 direct and a further 86,000 indirect employees.

More information and links to scientific studies at: 


 Contact points for media enquiries:

Andrew Large | alarge@paper.org.uk | tel: 01793 889601
Holly Whitbread | hwhitbread@paper.org.uk | tel: 07974 980852
Emma Punchard | epunchard@paper.org.uk | tel: 01793 889609

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