SAGE advises that single use paper towels should be used in public washrooms to help control COVID-19 

2 July 2020

As people get ready to reopen many businesses, SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies that provides scientific and technical advice to support government decision makers during emergencies) has reviewed the evidence on the spread of COVID-19 and the efficiency of mitigation measures.  

One of the issues considered is washroom hygiene with a large amount of useful information on cleansing and air flows.  

Specifically on hand drying the documents states:

Replacement of jet dryers with paper towels 

Rationale: Jet air dryers can aerosolise microorganisms from poorly washed hands. Incomplete drying of hands means that contamination can persist on hands.  
Evidence: Mechanistic studies to show microbial dispersion and studies using surrogate microorganisms show persistence of contamination. No direct evidence for transmission.  
Practical considerations: Relatively easy action to temporarily take dryers out of action and provide paper towels. Need to consider the management of paper towel waste. Longer term there are cost and energy implications.  

The full SAGE document can be found here.

“….the paper was the best assessment of the evidence at the time of writing. The picture is developing rapidly and, as new evidence or data emerges, SAGE updates its advice accordingly.”

This SAGE advice reinforces the consistent CPI message that single use paper towels are an important part of measures to control the spread of COVID-19.


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:

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