Torn between which is the more hygienic choice for cleaning hands: the paper towel or hand dryer? A new study will make the choice easier for you.
According to research conducted at the University of Leeds, hand dryers spread more germs than a paper towel. Apparently, the high-powered warm air and "jet air" hand dryers are capable of spreading bacteria in public restrooms.
The research led by Professor Mark Wilcox showed that the count of airborne germs was nearly 27 times greater in the case of jet air dryers, when compared to paper towel dispensers. Moreover, both warm air and jet air hand dryers had the ability to disseminate bacteria in the atmosphere, on users and people in the vicinity.
Professor Wilcox and his team infected hands with the Lactobacillus, a harmless bacteria that does not usually exist in public toilets. The contamination of hands was effected to imitate hands that were not washed properly.
The scientists later found that the Lactobacillus was present in the atmosphere. This could have only happened via the hands during the drying process. The team gathered air samples near the hand dryer, as well as from a distance of one to two meters.
After the analysis, the researchers found that the bacterial count in the atmosphere near the jet air hand dryers when compared to warm air hand dryers was four and half times higher. When jet air samples were compared to paper towels, the bacterial count was more than 27 times higher.
Alarmingly, the Lactobacilli remained in the atmosphere near the hand dryers even past the 15-second time period that the dryers take. Worse still, close to 48 percent of the bacteria collected as air sample was gathered over five minutes after the drying via hand dryers had lapsed. The Lactobacilli still persisted in the atmosphere even 15 minutes after the hand drying.
"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," noted Professor Wilcox.
He also opined that the findings of the research were pivotal in understanding the manner in which bacteria can spread "with the potential to transmit illness and disease."
The study "Microbiological comparison of hand-drying methods: the potential for contamination of the environment, user, and bystander" was published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.