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Are hand dryers sanitary and should you use them in public bathrooms?

You've seen the headlines, watched the viral TikToks, and perhaps even second-guessed using that hand dryer in the public restroom after washing your hands. A common refrain goes: "Hand dryers spread germs!" But is this true? Are hand dryers really the microbial cesspools some make them out to be? Let's deep dive into the world of electric hand dryers and explore what the science has to say.

The origin of the myth

The thought that hand dryers are unsanitary has been sensationalised by the media in the past few years, amplified by attention-grabbing headlines and viral content. This leaves a lot of us wondering, “Is there any truth behind these claims?”

What the science says

To get to the bottom of this, let’s look at a notable study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology titled "Evaluation of the potential for virus dispersal during hand drying: a comparison of three methods". This study aimed to evaluate the dispersal of viruses when using various hand-drying methods, including paper towels, warm air dryers, and jet air dryers.

The findings? It’s true that jet air dryers can disperse more viruses into the air compared to paper towels or warm air dryers, especially if hands are not thoroughly washed. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are unsanitary. A key factor to consider is the effectiveness of handwashing before drying. Properly washed hands will reduce the potential for any virus or bacterial spread, regardless of the drying method.

While the potential for germ dispersal has been a concern, technological advancements in the hand dryer industry are addressing hygiene head-on. Innovative DriBubble, for instance, have taken hand drying to the next level. Their latest models come equipped with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, proven to trap 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns, encompassing a vast majority of bacteria and viruses. This innovation ensures the air you're using to dry your hands has undergone a rigorous purification process. Even more impressive, some modern hand dryers now incorporate UV (ultraviolet) sterilisation techniques. By using UV light to neutralise microorganisms, these hand dryers further reduce the risk of spreading germs. So, while hand washing remains paramount, technological leaps in hand drying provide an added layer of protection and peace of mind.

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Other aspects of the hand dryer play a crucial role in its overall hygiene:

Power and Efficiency: Commercial hand dryers, especially those used in Australia and other developed regions, often prioritize efficiency. A powerful hand dryer can speed up the drying process, minimizing the contact time and reducing the risk of contamination.

Location: The positioning of the hand dryer within the bathroom is essential. Placing it away from toilets and urinals can reduce the potential for germ spread, given that flushes can aerosolize particles.

To Use or Not to Use?

Should you then avoid hand dryers altogether? Not necessarily. Here's what you can do:

  1. Wash Your Hands Properly: The most crucial step is proper handwashing. Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

  2. Be Conscious of Your Surroundings: If a restroom seems unclean, it might be best to skip the hand dryer and opt for a paper towel, if available.

  3. Personal Preference: If you're still unsure, it might come down to personal preference. Some might feel more comfortable using paper towels, while others might prefer the touch-free convenience of hand dryers.

While there is some evidence suggesting certain types of hand dryers can disperse more germs than other drying methods, it's essential to take these findings in context. Proper hand hygiene remains the most effective way to ensure your hands are clean. So, next time you find yourself in a public restroom faced with the decision of using a hand dryer, remember: it's not just about how you dry your hands, but how you wash them in the first place.

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Hand hygiene is more important than ever before. Initial supports a wide range of soap and sanitiser solutions to suit all industries.Hand hygiene is more important than ever before. Initial supports a wide range of soap and sanitiser solutions to suit all industries.

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