Public utility restrooms and bathrooms contain germs and viruses, the reason these areas keep hygienic equipment to reduce the spread of sickness-causing germs. Little do we know, hygienic equipment such as hand dryers spreads more germs than a regular paper towel, research says.

A study from the University of Westminster revealed that jet hand dryers spread bacteria 1,300 times more than average paper towels. To determine which disperses more viruses and bacteria, researchers compared three modes of hand drying - paper towels, a warm air dryer and a jet air dryer.

Research participants were asked to place their gloved hands in MS2 bacteriophage or a solution of safe virus. Afterwards, they washed their hands and dried them on the jet air dryer.

Using a petri dish that was placed earlier away from the hand dryer, the researchers collected the samples.

The study revealed that jet air dryers spread more germs, about 1,300 times compared to using paper towels and 60 times more than regular warm air dryers.

The research also showed that jet air dryers spread the virus at a farther distance than the other two modes of hand drying. Jet air dryer's 430 mph blasting air can spread germs at about 3 meters (118.11 inches) across the restroom, while average warm air dryers can spread viruses at about 75 centimeters (29.5 inches), and paper towels at about 25 centimeters (10 inches).

"These differences in results between the three hand-drying devices can be largely explained by their mode of drying the hands," said researchers.

Jet air hand dryers, such as the Dyson Airblade, even if championed by European public officials as a revolutionary way of filtering bacteria, must be used with caution.

A previous study conducted in 2014 by researchers from the University of Leeds also showed that the air around jet air dryers contain bacteria 27 times more than the air surrounding a paper towel container.

"Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it. You may also be splattered with bugs from other people's hands," said Mark Wilcox, lead researcher of the 2014 study on hand dryers vs paper towels.

The findings were published in The Journal of Applied Microbiology.

Photo: Ben Aston | Flickr

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