In many locations around the world, you can see dryers like this1:

enter image description here

These dryers are being phased out in favor of air-jet dryers that involve inserting your hand in an opening. However, many locations still use dryers like the one above.

I know the basic method to operate them: press the button, rub your hands underneath, repeat until dry or frustrated. Personally, I find them a pain to use:

  1. I have no idea how to hold my hand underneath them or what to do with them;
  2. The air that comes out is often either too hot or too cold;
  3. nearly always, the period during which the air comes out is way too long.

In the end, my hands are still somewhat wet and feel slightly hot from the overheated air, and I feel just frustrated in general at the general uselessness of the things. I sometimes even resort to just wiping my hands on my clothes, which is obviously not beneficial for anyone.

So, how do you use these so your hands are actually dry afterwards? Is there some kind of trick to using these that doesn't involve wetting your clothes or running around with wet hands afterwards?

1 source: http://www.restroomdirect.com/World-Dryer-Model-A-hand-dryers.aspx

  • 7
    I didn't downvote, but I'll posit that the connection to travel is somewhat tenuous at best. Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 8:39
  • 20
    Here is the explanation you asked for: What you are asking is completely unclear to me, you seem to know full well how to use these devices and just abuse the Q&A format to register some complaints about their effectiveness. Also, I do not believe you are genuinely interested in the question.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 9:03
  • 7
    @Nzall Perhaps we should petition SE for a dedicated "sanitary stack exchange"
    – Calchas
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 9:03
  • 7
    Downvoted because it has nothing to do with travelling, as this kind of device can be found worldwide (so you don't need to travel to use one), and drying your hands is not part of travelling :). As said by Zach Lipton below, just rub your hands and they will dry (eventually).
    – Borissov
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 9:33
  • 5
    How can it be on for too long if you don't hold your hands under it long enough to dry your hands? Surely your period of use is too short?
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 10:35

8 Answers 8


Shake your hands to remove as much water as possible.

Hold one hand with the back of the hand close to the air stream until it is dry.

Swap hands, dry the back of the other hand.

Rub your hands together to get the back of both hands wet again.

Repeat until both hands are dry.

This method is optimal because the large flat convex surface of the back of your hand both allows the air to blow the water droplets away and evaporate the remaining water from the skin

  • 1
    Even better: Turn around hand so that the air flow dries the palm, too.
    – Jan
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 11:21
  • 1
    No, as Sam explains, it works much better for the back of the hand. @Jan Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 14:59
  • 4
    Yeah this is the ideal answer - the trick is to repeatedly re-wet the "easier to dry" back of your hand until most of the moisture is gone. I also find that after the first "round" of this, another shake usually dislodges some excess water that's been blown into larger drops by the airflow. Once fairly dry, you can return to rubbing your hands rapidly in the airflow
    – Jon Story
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 16:36
  • Instead of shaking, I wipe each hand using the other hand, so there are more water droplets in the sink and less on the mirror!
    – Alexander
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 20:43
  • Great answer. As a bonus, the back of your hands are less sensitive than the front, so you can hold them closer to the drier in a hotter position. After doing this a couple of times, one quick blast before leaving on the front of your hands holding them at this angle \ / also helps get the very last of it off. They won't feel dry immediately because the evaporation feels cold making them feel wetter than they are, but they'll feel dry a few seconds later Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 10:08

My experience is that you don't use them. They work poorly, which is why they are generally being replaced with newer more efficient dryers or removed altogether.

In theory, you can use them by pressing the button, then rubbing your hands together underneath in the airflow. If you're extremely patient and do this for long enough, you should eventually wind up with dry hands (not that anybody has ever waited this long). The dryer runs for such a long time precisely because it takes a long time to actually use one to dry your hands.

In practice, you use them by pressing the button, finding the air either too hot or too cold and trying to move your hands up and down so as to find hot air without burning yourself, realizing this will take forever, and either giving up or wiping your hands on your pants. More experienced users will typically short-cut the process and skip directly to the final step.

Don't just take my word for it though; complaining about these old hand dryers was a hot topic in the '90s, and earlier:

You might also find interesting this Atlas Obscura article: The Weird History of Hand Dryers Will Blow You Away

  • 12
    I have (waited that long).
    – Jan
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 11:20
  • Also: kcprofessional.com/solutions/safe-hand-drying Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 13:36
  • 2
    I remember the first time I used a Dyson AirBlade hand dryer, I was a bit blown away (no pun intended) because it actually got my hands dry! That's how bad traditional hot-air dryers are. Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 16:01
  • @MasonWheeler: Indeed! The first time I used an Airblade™ [sic] I was utterly astounded and, also being slightly drunk, went on about it to my friends for a considerable amount of time. To this day I'm excited to see one. Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 18:14
  • One thing I don't like about airblades is that they are super-loud Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 18:30

The aim is to maximise the surface area of the water on your hands, so keep spreading the remaining water all over your hands, especially to those parts that have already dried.
Tease out the water between your fingers as this water is often the last to dry out.

  • Before you start, shake water off your hands. Faced with a drier I know to be feeble, I use a flicking motion where I tuck all fingers under the thumb then spread them wide, several times. Do this over the sink, not the floor ;-)

  • While under the air, your hands should be in motion at all times. There are two motions to combine/alternate.

  • Motion 1 is to cup the ball of your thumb in the fingers of the opposite hand, then slide those fingers around the back of the first hand, then along the backs of the fingers. Then cup what was the "opposite" hand in the fingers of the first hand, repeat in reverse. This is basically a classic "hand-washing" mime.

  • Motion 2 deals with the fact that the classic "hand-washing" mime doesn't separate your fingers: you need to spread and interlock your fingers, rubbing the sides of the fingers against those of the opposite hands. I generally need less of this than of Motion 1.

  • Be alert to the feel of the air on your hands: you don't want all this cupping to mean that your hands are shielding each other from the air half the time. Don't clench them together, keep them fairly open and loose, and avoid the temptation to close the "inner" hand into a near-fist while the outer hand rubs the back of the fingers.

  • Some time after you're getting really bored of this, you'll feel your hands go quite quickly from sliding wetly over each other, to feeling more friction. At this point they are almost dry, but actually still a little moist to the touch. If you aren't planning to shake hands with anyone immediately you walk away, this is probably dry enough, otherwise you might want to stick at it even longer.

  • If you're wearing rings then the skin under the ring pretty much is going to stay damp. Tough.

The goal is that every part of the surface of your hands is regularly brushed by another part of the surface of the opposite hand. That way, anywhere that water might otherwise collect is disturbed, and the water spread onto other parts of your hands that are drying. Beyond this principle, the exact details can be whatever works for you.

In practice, I agree with Zach that it's generally not worth the bother. Pro-tip, I find that the shirt in the small of my back is a more inconspicuous place to dry my hands than my trousers. But then, I often wear a loose shirt or a sweater over a T-shirt.

The air that comes out is often either too hot or too cold

Cheap hand-dryers are hardly going to optimize your comfort. If you aren't in pain then just keep at it. If you are in pain then move your hands down (further away) or give up entirely. Even cold air has some drying effect, but if it's clearly taking longer than you have patience for, bail out.

the period during which the air comes out is way too long

Maybe I'm missing something, but if your hands are already dry and the air is still blowing you've won. Just leave.

Finally, if you're worried about the hygiene of the thing then carry your own clean paper towels, and/or apply an evaporating hand-sanitizer after washing and drying your hands. For that matter, if you're worried about the hygiene of hand-washing then reading techniques for scrubbing for surgery is instructive (I'm not bothered myself, but I do get bored at the dentist's and they have a wall chart at mine)


Not that I find the new air-jet dryers much better, but if I find one of these old models in a bath room and there are no paper towels there, I usually seek a toilet cubicle after washing my hands and grab some toilet paper to dry off.

  • Those air-jet driers are way too loud. Especially in a bathroom with tile walls. Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 15:23

I share your frustration with such dryers, which to me are strictly inferior in almost every way to simply providing paper towels.

As indicated by Sam, part of the trick is to not have very wet hands to start with. And, as noted by Zach, one usually winds up using a slightly less-sanitary method of drying the hands. Personally, I split the difference. I know that I'm not going to be able to keep my hands out of my hair, so after washing up, I run my hands through my hair, simultaneously removing water and using said water to help slick my hair back down, then I use the dryer on my now-only-slightly-damp hands, which works much better. I'll typically do the same thing with paper towels so that a single towel is enough to dry my hands.

But wait... doesn't running your hand through your (presumably) dirty hair negate the benefits of hand-washing? Well, unless you work in a clean-room, or in a food-preparation job, the odds are good that within minutes of washing your hands, your handling dirty keyboards, doorknobs, coffee-maker handles... the speed at which your body is recontaminated with bacteria is pretty shocking, although the fact that most of us are covered with e. coli and suffer no ill effects also points out that our bodies really are pretty good at this whole "protecting us from illness" thing.


Your feeling that the period the air comes out is too long and the inability to get your hands completely dry are directly related. Yes, it takes more time to dry your hand with hot air that with a towel. You need to rub your hands for about 1 minute in hot air to get them dry.

Just avoid using the toilet 5 minutes before your train/bus/etc. is leaving, or when your name is already being called at the airport gate, when you don't have a minute to spare. You'll have the occasion to use the bathroom in the said train/bus/plane.


Shake, rub, turn while shaking and rubbing. The little known secret is a certain hop on one foot that completes the drying action -- wait, it is not. I mention the hop because there is actually a secret: once you've warmed and partially dried your hands this way a little wipe on the clothes, bachelor style, will very quickly get your formerly wetted skin to a very near-dry condition. Voila, accomplished (or as some of my British friends would say, 'Result!')

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