Hand dryers spread fecal matter and other bacteria. Why do we still us

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Airborne contaminants, soiled rest room seats, mildew, and mildew: Lengthy earlier than the coronavirus pandemic got here round, the hygiene-focused amongst us knew public washrooms are dirty locations.

Most adults go to the lavatory round 8 to 10 occasions a day. With a mean hand-drying time of 30 seconds, we can count on between 4 to five minutes of each day dryer use per individual (and extra for individuals with an overactive bladder or comparable issues).

In an try and facilitate the handwashing course of, are hand dryers including to the filth by blowing contaminants round? And if that’s the case, why are they still frequent?

The necessity to dry

Drying arms is a necessary a part of the handwashing course of. Moist arms can additional the spread of microbes, since moisture facilitates their switch from the pores and skin to other surfaces.

In comparison with shaking your hands dry after a wash, utilizing an air dryer or paper towel drastically reduces the variety of floor micro organism that remain.

Heat air dryers take away moisture from the arms by evaporation, whereas jet air dryers take away it by utilizing sheer force to disperse the droplets into the air.

It’s price remembering hand dryers don’t create microbes, and there’s normally solely minimal micro organism on their nozzles, too. In lots of circumstances air dryers may even be fitted with filters that assist clear and take away contaminants from the air.

Put a lid on it!

Nonetheless, whereas dryers themselves aren’t essentially unclean, their compelled air might help flow into micro organism across the house. This is the reason the primary focus needs to be on stopping micro organism from surfaces ever changing into aerosolized (getting into the air) within the first place.

If a rest room’s lid is left open when it’s flushed, a wonderful aerosolized mist of microbes enters the air. And this cloud of fecal matter can spread over an space of as much as 65 sq. toes. Analysis has proven even after flushing many occasions, a rest room can continue to emit contaminants into the air. In other phrases, an individual contaminated with a virus may very well be spreading these germs for a number of hours after visiting the bathroom.

Public washrooms can due to this fact act as reservoirs for particularly nasty micro organism, akin to these which are proof against antibiotics. So are paper towels the answer?


Some loos supply each paper towels and air dryers. Must you prioritize one over the other? [Photo: Christian Moro]

Issues with paper

Paper towels take away water by absorption and take contaminants with them after they’re binned. Nevertheless, they’ll trigger plumbing issues if flushed down the bathroom, which requires time and cash to repair.

Moreover, paper towels have to be constantly bought, restocked, and disposed of as waste, all of which ends up in elevated prices. In a worst-case situation, towels could run out, prompting individuals to exit with out drying their arms in any respect.

Granted, in a hospital setting a dryer’s compelled air could transfer microbes onto objects dealt with by well being professionals and sufferers, akin to telephones or stethoscopes. So paper towels could also be a extra appropriate possibility right here.

However they still don’t present a completely sterile setting, and could be contaminated by microbes circulating within the space.

Weighing the environmental influence

Though hand dryers do produce carbon emissions, research have shown that heat air dryers (which depend on evaporation) generate as much as 70% more emissions than newer, quick jet dryers (which drive out a rush of chilly air).

Environmentally speaking, heat air dryers and paper towels carry out roughly the identical, on common.

Utilizing recycled paper towels doesn’t appear to assist a lot, both. It’s because they’ll’t be recycled additional, as a result of chemical substances added to extend their absorptive properties in addition to the general vitality required to fabricate them.

Within the U.S., round 6 million tons of paper towels find yourself in landfills every year.

The dry debate continues

Some research has concluded that paper towels supply a extra hygienic methodology for drying arms. In the meantime, aggressive jet hand dryers appear to have proven the best potential for dispersing micro organism and particles over wider distances.

However there isn’t a transparent winner in follow. A current vital assessment concluded there wasn’t sufficient analysis weighing up each choices and that till extra sturdy research had been carried out, evidence-based public coverage suggestions couldn’t be made. This echoes each the World Health Organization’s and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hesitance to supply suggestions for whether or not drying arms with air dryers is kind of efficient than utilizing paper towels.

Suggestions for a wholesome rest room routine

Whereas hand dryers can flow into contaminants round an area, the intention needs to be to cease germs from changing into aerosolized within the first place. If the contaminants aren’t within the air to start with, their dispersion from hand dryers is much less of a fear.


Health education on this entrance is necessary. Easy suggestions embrace:

  • closing the bathroom lid earlier than flushing
  • carrying a masks the place really useful or required, particularly for individuals who have respiratory tract signs or a cough
  • coughing or clearing your throat straight right into a tissue and instantly throwing it within the bin
  • washing your arms commonly with cleaning soap and water and not forgetting to dry them, as moist arms usually tend to spread bugs and illnesses.

In areas the place an infection management and prevention are paramount, akin to hospitals or meals manufacturing areas, measures akin to elevated airflow and air filters also can assist.

The underside line

Utilizing paper towels comes with recurring prices, logistical issues, and environmental concerns. In the meantime, air dryers can additional flow into vaporized micro organism. Managers of public washrooms have a lot to contemplate when deciding which methodology of hand drying to supply. In some eventualities, hand dryers do current as a greater possibility, which is why we proceed to see them in public washrooms.

No matter what possibility you select, don’t neglect that drying is a necessary a part of the handwashing course of. Each air dryers and paper towels are, by a good distance, higher than utilizing nothing in any respect.

Christian Moro is an affiliate professor of science and medication at Bond University, and Charlotte Phelps is a PhD Pupil at Bond University. This text is republished from The Conversation below a Artistic Commons license. Learn the original article.