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The Hygiene of Hand Dryers: Separating Fact from Fiction

by Direct AIKE 04 Jul 2023 0 Comments

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been a significant focus on the question of whether hand dryers are hygienic. The answer is a resounding YES! Hand dryers have been approved for use in public areas by reputable organizations such as the WHO, CDC, and international governments.

Japanese and German governments endorse hand dryers

When the pandemic began, both the Japanese and German governments conducted thorough reviews of data on hand dryers and paper towels, erring on the side of caution. They subsequently declared hand dryers completely safe for use. Skepticism surrounding their use can largely be attributed to lobbying efforts and sponsored studies by the paper towel industry. In this article, we explore the findings of independent experts, including scientists, academic institutions, and health bodies, while also applying common sense. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Effective hand dryers are more hygienic when hands are washed thoroughly, as they are non-touch devices. Paper towels and dispensers can create cross-contamination points.
  2. If hands are not washed properly, paper towels may be more effective as they can remove additional microbes through friction.
  3. The effectiveness of hand drying depends on thoroughness. Wet hands pose a higher risk of microbe transfer, and paper towels are often not used to dry between fingers adequately, while some dryers may not be quick enough.
  4. Good ventilation, mechanical air sterilization, and proper handwashing are crucial factors in maintaining hygiene, regardless of the hand drying method, as long as drying is thorough.

are hand dryers are hygenic?

Leading health institutes and academic institutions support hand dryer use

The Yale School of Medicine advises,“Since threats like COVID-19 can lead to the circulation of misinformation, it’s important to trust information only from reputable health organizations and government sources such as the CDC and the WHO““Dry your hands completely. You can dry them under a warm air dryer, or use a paper towel. Avoid a recently used towel as moisture is a good breeding ground for bacteria, which makes drying your hands an important step.”

The World Health Organization issued a message in early March 2020, stating, “To protect yourself against the new virus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.”

According to the CDC, "We have no evidence that hand dryers are spreading the coronavirus."

Expert opinions

Dr. David L Webber, an independent microbiologist, has confirmed that the use of hand dryers in washrooms does not contribute to the spread of airborne viruses. In a video from the Royal Melbourne Hospital on protecting oneself from COVID-19, it is recommended to dry hands after washing using either a paper towel or a hand dryer. Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Arizona's Zuckerman College of Public Health, states,“Consumers may only read [sensationalized] headlines which can influence public opinion toward biased or erroneous conclusions, [but] the fact is, the breadth of data available does not favor one hand drying method as being more hygienic or safer.” 

Addressing concerns over hand dryer videos on social media

How aike heap filtered hand dryer ak2005h works

Videos on platforms like TikTok and Facebook showing bacteria and molds forming after placing petri dishes under hand dryers and incubating them may appear alarming. However, it is important to note that a hand dryer will release more bacteria into the petri dish due to the volume and force of the air. Many hand dryers with HEPA filters actually make the air cleaner as it passes through, although more air is being circulated. The hand dryer itself does not create the bacteria; it is already present in the washroom air, which we naturally breathe in. We cannot live in completely sanitized environments.

The commercial aspect of the hand dryer debate

The widespread adoption of hand dryers has led to disinformation being spread, primarily driven by the paper industry to create fear and boost sales of their products. The Guardian newspaper's in-depth article, "Hand dryers vs. paper towels: the surprisingly dirty fight for the right to dry your hands," delves further into this issue, highlighting how PR considerations sometimes overshadow the establishment of scientific protocols.

The reality is that as long as hands are washed and dried effectively, both hand dryers and paper towels are safe options. Hand dryers excel in terms of environmental impact, operational efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. Focusing on fear surrounding hand dryers distracts from the broader challenge of creating safer public bathrooms.

Hand Washing

Designers and building managers should prioritize the following areas:

  1. Good ventilation that meets regulations for the number of air changes.
  2. Incorporating air and surface sterilization into the ventilation system or as standalone devices.
  3. Closing toilet lids to prevent aerosolization from flushes.
  4. Touchless flushes.
  5. Enclosed toilet roll dispensers that prevent bacteria and viruses from settling on the paper.
  6. Using non-touch hand dryers with HEPA filters or touch-free paper towel dispensers.
  7. Employing a wall guard to absorb and quickly dry excess moisture, inhibiting bacteria growth.
  8. When using paper towels, ensuring the presence of touch-free, pedal-operated, or self-closing bins to prevent the use of open damp towels.
  9. When using paper, implementing touch-free dispensing systems to prevent cross-contamination.
  10. Installing sensor-operated taps and soap dispensers.
  11. Using handle-free doors that can be pushed with the elbow or back, and incorporating anti-microbial surfaces on any push plates.
  12. Displaying signage that encourages good hand hygiene as a responsible citizen.

By focusing on these aspects, we can create cleaner and safer public washrooms.

Clean Wash Room

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