Enlightening information on why you should ditch hand dryers right now, and yes, use paper towels instead.
You know how important it is to wash your hands, especially in the current circumstances. When it comes to keeping a health crisis at bay, washing your hands really goes a long way. Did you know, however, that drying your hands can be just as important as washing them? “After washing your hands, it is so crucial that you dry your hands thoroughly,” Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, a physician, and health expert says.
Wet hands easily transfer or pick up germs. You could drip bacteria-infected water if hands have not been washed thoroughly, and anything wet hands touch could become contaminated. It is more likely for bacteria to transfer from wet skin than from dry skin.
So, handwashing is of course one of the best ways to remove germs, stave off illness, and prevent the spread of bad bacteria to others. But you may be compromising all your handwashing work the moment you press the button on a hot-air dryer!
“One goal is to ensure that you do not re-contaminate the hands with bacteria in the process of washing or drying the hands,” Okeke-Igbokwe says. So if you have the option to dry your hands with paper towels, cloth towels, or an air-dryer, it’s more important to choose one rather than leave your hands to air dry. However, some research shows there is a superior way to dry your hands—with paper towels. A new study from the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University shows that hot-air dryers may be acting like bacterial bombs, shooting loads of spores from bathroom air directly onto your hands.
Is there proof that jet hand dryers are really that germy?
Staphylococcus aureus, which causes a range of conditions including MRSA, was found three times more often on the surfaces of air dryers compared to paper towel dispensers during an international study! There are plenty more studies backing up the germy hand dryer theory –
When people do not wash their hands properly and then place them in a shaft of hot air, germs are spread around the atmosphere, researchers found. The dryer creates an “aerosol that contaminates the toilet room”, said Mark Wilcox, professor of medical microbiology at the University of Leeds
According to research from Mayo Clinic, electric air hand driers actually have the potential to spread bacteria by blowing the pathogens right back onto your hands after washing, Okeke-Igbokwe explains. “Using hand dryers in public restrooms is the worst way to dry your washed hands,” Dr. Cutler says.
Another study from Westminster University found the most powerful hand driers can spread a virus up to one and a half meters or almost five feet across the room. It seems drying your hands with a clean paper towel may be the safer choice to reduce the risk of spreading germs, according to Okeke-Igbokwe. There are even 14 diseases you can prevent by washing (and drying) your hands.
Depending on the design of the dryer and where it is sited, the sinks, floor and other surfaces can all be covered in bacteria, according to the research published in the Journal of Hospital Infection. “If people touch those surfaces, they risk becoming contaminated,” Professor Wilcox said.
Or if you aren’t grossed out enough already, check out this assignment Nichole Ward completed, using a petrie dish that she had put in an enclosed Dyson hand dryer in a women’s restroom for a short amount of time. 48 hours later, these were the results (read more here);
Will hand dryers aid in the spread of viruses, like Covid-19?
It has recently hit the news that a senior doctor has written to England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty to raise her “grave concern” that electric hand dryers in toilets could increase the risk of transmission of coronavirus, following aerosol formation by high energy electric hand dryers.
Charlotte Fowler, a consultant radiologist, brought up the risk of a more rampant spread if someone had not washed their hands thoroughly. She called on Professor Whitty to have hand dryers turned off until the issue can be examined in more detail.
“I have been envisaging the scenario of someone who is carrying the virus but who hasn’t been 100% successful in their hand washing. If they were to use a hand towel they might be lucky and finish the job off. If however instead they use a hand drier to finish, they would be less effective in their own decontamination but worse could create COVID-19 laden aerosols which could float around in the warm air eddies of the facilities being inhaled by anyone coming for the three hours afterwards.
These hand dryers are not drying our hands very safely, and they are also whipping the virus up into the air and creating like a mist or a fog”
Dr Fowler said that this information, combined with recent research suggesting that the virus can survive in aerosols for three hours, is a cause for concern.
What is the more hygienic solution to drying hands?
Paper towels are the most hygienic way to dry your hands. For this reason, use of paper towels is already routine in most health care settings.
The Department of Health’s guidance on hand washing ends with the use of hand towels rather than dryers. Drying hands with paper towels is also on the NHS’s current information on how to better contain the spread of coronavirus, by being more hygienic.
In contrast to germ spreading jet hand dryers, paper towels have been found to absorb the water and microbes left on the hands and if they are disposed of properly, there is less potential for cross-contamination.
This touch free paper hand towel dispenser auto cuts you a sheet of paper towel, which means you only have to touch the new, clean pieces of paper towel you are going to dry your hands with. You couldn’t get much more hygienic than that! It is much more cost effective than some of the expensive automatic electric ones, which is great for large organisations installing across multiple washrooms, and even has a lifetime guarantee.
If you are worried about the environment, choose ECO hand towel rolls, made from 80% recycled cardboard. They offer such superior wet strength, that only 2 paper towels are needed to dry your hands!
Bottom line: Always dry your hands, no matter what
The least-safe option is not drying your hands at all. Ranekka Dean, the Director of Infection Control at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Long Island notes that studies on each drying method have strengths and weaknesses, but as long as your hands are completely dry you’re making a healthy choice. “The decision to use a specific drying method may be determined by several factors, including practicality, personal preference, cost, space, and availability.” And if you use a bath towel, remember how bad it is not to wash it every week.
It is clear jet air dryers are associated with the spread of germs in bathrooms, so you may be best to avoid them altogether, and persuade any organisation you are in touch with to make the switch to paper towels as soon as convenient.
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