The most favorable bathroom inventions might be the hand dryers. But did you know that they spread – rather than remove – germs? Shocking, isn’t it?
The healthcare and food industries are obsessed with hand hygiene. That’s because in a hospital, transmitting viruses and bacteria can mean life or death. And in a restaurant or on a cruise ship, foodborne illnesses like E. coli and norovirus can make people severely and even critically ill.
In one study
, microbiologists compared jet air dryers to warm air dryers and paper towels. What they found was disturbing:
- The jet air dryer dispersed 20 times more virus than the warm air dryer and over 190 times more than paper towels, at six different heights, and nine different distances.
- The impact of the virus was greatest at 2 ½ feet to 4.1 feet – which is about face-level for a small child.
The way each method works helps to explain the results. Jet air dryers force air out sideways at ultrahigh speeds. Warm air dryers work by evaporation. Paper towels absorb water.
These findings suggest that most of the bacteria spewed by hot-air hand dryers comes from bathroom air. In other words, bacteria are being sucked into dryers from the air, not multiplying within dryers.
“Drying your hands with paper towels not only dries them faster, but the friction also dislodges bacteria to leave them cleaner,” notes urgent care specialist, Dr. Lash-Ritter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:
- Use warm or cold water. Wet your hands, then turn off the tap, then apply soap.
- Lather well, washing the backs of your hands, between your fingers and beneath your nails.
- Wash for 20 seconds.
- Rinse well under clean, running water.
- Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry.
When you’re in a public restroom, remember that low-tech is sometimes better than high-tech – stick with paper towels (still, use them wisely!)