Hand dryers in public restrooms may be spreading bacteria to your hands, so you should think twice about using them.
It is always important to "wash your stinking hands," as the nurse said in the viral video from earlier this year. Drying your hands, however, is an entirely new matter, with hand dryers in public bathrooms apparently not a good option.
Hand Dryers May Spread Bacteria
The researchers, who were from the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine, studied 36 bathrooms across the campus. They scanned the areas for a strain of Bacillus subtilis, or PS533, that was engineered in a nearby laboratory, along with other bacterial colonies.
The results of the study were concerning. By placing special plates under the hand dryers for 30 seconds, the researchers found 18 to 60 bacterial colonies, and in every bathroom, they found PS533.
"These results indicate that many kinds of bacteria, including potential pathogens and spores, can be deposited on hands exposed to bathroom hand dryers," wrote the researchers, "and that spores could be dispersed throughout buildings and deposited on hands by hand dryers."
The hand dryers were apparently sucking up the bacteria around the bathroom and blasting them to the hands of people. There was bacteria contamination inside the hand dryers, waiting to spread to the next person who dries their hands with them.
How Should You Dry Your Hands?
Peter Setlow, the lead author of the study, revealed that he has stopped using hand dryers after the research was completed. In fact, the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine even started to stock paper towels in its facilities.
The scientists also explored the effectiveness of using high-efficiency particulate air filters with the hand dryers. The HEPA filters were able to block 75 percent of the bacteria from reaching the hands, but not all hand dryers in public restrooms will be equipped with such filters.
People, however, should not skip washing their hands to avoid getting bacteria on them from the hand dryer. Regular and thorough washing of hands remains one of the most effective ways of staying healthy, no matter how you choose to dry them afterward. If there are no paper towels around, maybe you can just air dry them yourself?