The fact that public toilets have all kinds of germs is not news. But, did you know that the amount of bacteria you are exposed to can go up by just drying your hands the wrong way?
Most people believe that paper towels are expensive than air dryers and jet dryers so they don’t leave you with a choice in many public toilets. But, hot air hand dryers that blow hot air just make it much worse by exposing your freshly washed hands to way more bacteria than that in the bathroom air.
Who says hot air hand dryers are bad?
According to a study published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology, there is evidence that many kinds of bacteria, including potential pathogens and spores, can be deposited on hands exposed to bathroom hand dryers.
Every time the toilet is flushed without being covered, the bacteria get into the air and are dispersed over a large area. These microbes are then deposited from the hand dryers onto the hands.
Not only can these hand dryers deposit bacteria on freshly washed hands, but the amount of bacteria you would be exposed to from the air blowing from these dryers is also way more than the bacteria you get by exposing your hands to bathroom air.
However, hand dryers fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) Filters tend to disperse less bacteria than the ones without it.
What should you do after washing your hands in a public washroom?
When it comes to a choice between hot air hand dryers and paper towels with respect to hygiene, you can either choose the napkins from the dispenser in the toilet or better yet to carry your own paper towels.
A paper towel is efficient for drying your hands and does not expose you to any more bacteria than what is already in the bathroom air.
Tips to keep in mind when using a paper hand towel
-As there is high risk of transmission of bacteria from the wet skin than from dry skin, ensure that you wipe the water off your hands completely.
-Do not shake hands with people who have just washed their hands in a restroom, especially when their hands are still wet.
-Lastly, whether or not you use hand dryers in regular washrooms, it is better to use paper towels in places such as hospitals, research labs and clinics, where the level of pathogens in the air is higher than other places.
1. Del Carmen Huesca-Espitia L, Aslanzadeh J, Feinn R, Joseph G, Murray TS, Setlow P. Deposition of Bacteria and Bacterial Spores by Bathroom Hot Air Hand Dryers. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2018 Feb 9. pii: AEM.00044-18.
2. Huang C, Ma W, Stack S. The hygienic efficacy of different hand-drying methods: a review of the evidence. Mayo Clin Proc. 2012;87(8):791-8.
3. Knowlton SD, Boles CL, Perencevich EN, Diekema DJ, Nonnenmann MW; CDC Epicenters Program. Bioaerosol concentrations generated from toilet flushing in a hospital-based patient care setting. Antimicrob Resist Infect Control. 2018;7:16.