Why Are Paper Towels Used When Turning On & Off the Faucet?

why are paper towels used while turning on and off the faucet

Here, you’ll learn why paper towels are routinely used for touching faucets. This practice is not just a random action; it’s a strategic measure aimed at maintaining hygiene and minimizing the spread of germs.

This guide aims to shed light on the importance of this seemingly mundane act and its significant role in public health. Let’s dive in!


I cannot stress enough the importance of proper hand hygiene. As a mother of two hyperactive kids, I’ve witnessed the aftermath of dirty hands more times than I can count.

When my youngest came home from school one day, sneezing and coughing, I knew we were in for a rough week. Sure enough, by the end of the week, the entire family had caught the bug.

It was a stark reminder that our hands are like highways for germs, bringing unwanted “visitors” straight into our homes.

Washing hands properly and regularly, especially before meals and after using the washroom, can significantly reduce the risk of illnesses.

Faucets: The Unseen Culprits

Faucets, while indispensable, are often overlooked as potential germ hotspots. Many of us habitually wash our hands and turn off the faucet with the same clean hand.

I was guilty of this, too, until a friend who works in public health shared some insightful facts. Faucets are touched before and after our hands are washed.

This means the germs from our unwashed hands can linger on the faucet handles, waiting to hitch a ride on the next person’s hands.

Therefore, using a paper towel to turn off the faucet can serve as a simple yet effective barrier, intercepting these pesky germs and helping to keep our hands clean.

Now, I always turn off the faucet with a paper towel, and I’ve also passed this healthy habit on to my children.

The Faucet Contamination Problem

Though essential, the daunting reality is that our faucet handles are significant culprits for germ transmission. Let’s explore this in more detail.

How Germs Accumulate on Faucet Handles

Just the other day, I hosted a small gathering at my house. I couldn’t help but notice how frequently guests used the restroom and the sink.

Each person touched the faucet handles before and after washing their hands. This repetitive cycle is a prime example of how germs accumulate on faucet handles.

Every unwashed hand that touches the faucet leaves behind an unseen trail of microbes. Over time, these microscopic invaders multiply, forming a veritable metropolis of germs.

Common Contaminants Found on Faucets

Our faucets can be a breeding ground for a variety of pathogens. Let’s take the common cold virus, for instance.

While attending a potluck at my neighbor’s house last winter, one of the guests had a cold. In no time, many of us were down with the cold, too.

Later, I learned from an article that cold viruses can survive on surfaces, such as faucet handles, for up to 24 hours!

Other contaminants like E.Coli, Salmonella, which are commonly found in restrooms, can also call our faucets home.

Risks Associated with Touching Contaminated Faucet Handles

The risks of touching contaminated faucet handles extend beyond common colds. Every time we touch a contaminated faucet and then touch our faces, we are potentially introducing harmful pathogens into our bodies.

A few years back, during flu season, I remember visiting a public restroom and touching the faucet handles without thinking.

Days later, I fell ill with the flu. While I can’t confirm it, I suspect the faucet may have been the source.

These experiences have made me realize that we can significantly protect ourselves from illnesses by correctly handling faucet handles.

Paper Towels as a Barrier

How Paper Towels Act as a Protective Barrier

Being an ardent believer in “prevention is better than cure,” I’ve decided to adopt a small but mighty weapon against germs: paper towels.

A paper towel can be a barrier between your hands and the germy faucet handles.

Using the paper towel to turn the faucet handles on and off creates a physical barrier that prevents direct contact with the contaminants.

Reducing Direct Hand-to-Faucet Contact

Remember that time I got the flu after touching a public restroom faucet? Well, I promised myself never to repeat that mistake.

Since then, after washing my hands, I would take an extra paper towel to turn off the faucet. This

simple step helped reduce my direct hand-to-faucet contact, thus minimizing my exposure to any potential germs lurking on the faucet handles.

The Practicality and Cost-Effectiveness of Using Paper Towels

So, is it practical to use paper towels in this way? Absolutely. Most public restrooms provide paper towels for drying hands, so why not use them?

Plus, the cost of a paper towel is incredibly low compared to the potential medical expenses and inconvenience if one falls sick.

This small habit of using a paper towel as a barrier has been a game-changer. Maintaining good hygiene and avoiding illnesses is an easy, cost-effective way.

Alternatives to Paper Towels

While paper towels serve as a convenient and effective barrier against germs, other options are available for minimizing faucet handle contact. Let’s explore some of them:

Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers, particularly those with a high alcohol content, are a great alternative. Once, when I was traveling and didn’t have access to a restroom, a hand sanitizer was my saving grace.

However, they are less effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

Automatic Sensor Faucets

Automatic sensor faucets are another excellent alternative commonly seen in modern restrooms.

These faucets detect hand movement and turn on without physical contact, eliminating the risk of germ transmission.

I remember being fascinated when I used one of these faucets – it felt like magic!

Foot Pedals

Foot pedals work by stepping on a pedal to turn on the water, avoiding hand contact.

They were a common sight during my volunteer work at a local soup kitchen, and they proved to be highly effective, especially when our hands were complete or filthy.

Comparing the Alternatives

All of these alternatives have their advantages. Hand sanitizers are portable and quick, automatic faucets are touch-free, and foot pedals allow operation even with occupied hands.

However, they also have their disadvantages. Hand sanitizers are less effective on dirty hands. Not every restroom has sensor faucets; foot pedals are rare in public restrooms.

Yet, these alternatives share a common goal with paper towels – to minimize direct hand-to-faucet contact, thus reducing the risk of illness.

Each method has its place, and choosing one often depends on the situation.


In conclusion, my journey exploring the alternatives to traditional faucet use has been enlightening.

Hand sanitizers, automatic sensor faucets, and foot pedals offer unique benefits in our collective effort to reduce germ transmission.

Hand sanitizers provide a quick, portable solution, automatic faucets offer contactless operations, and foot pedals offer functionality even when our hands are full or unclean.

Throughout my experiences, one thing has remained clear – hygiene is an individual responsibility.

It’s not just about using hand sanitizers or fancy sensor faucets; it’s about being consistently mindful of our actions.

Whether remembering to carry a small bottle of sanitizer during travels or consciously opting for a foot pedal when our hands are dirty, each decision plays a part in maintaining our health and the health of those around us.

My journey has also reinforced the importance of a simple tool we often take for granted – the paper towel.

Now more than ever, paper towels are a bridge between us and a potential sea of germs at the faucet.

No matter the alternative, using a paper towel to turn off the faucet remains a constant, practical measure to prevent germ spread.

From the travel-size sanitizer I always carry in my bag to the awe-inspiring automatic faucets, the humble paper towel stands tall in its role.


Hi! I’m Kobby, one of the co-owners of favoredstoneguides.com and the newest house owner in town. I’m a huge fan of most things natural. Over here on this site, I'm happy to share all the exciting hacks, tricks, and tips I have learned and continue to learn each day about taking care of natural stones.

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