• Hand-washing doesn't count if what one uses has bacteria and viruses all over them.
• Experts recommend using a sanitizer even after hand drying with 60 per cent alcohol, to be on the safe side.
Electric hand dryers are increasingly becoming the in-thing in most business premises, offices and even households due to their convenience.
However, a recent study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection found that electric hand dryers can spread more germs than paper towels.
Professor Mark Wilcox, the lead author of the research from the University of Leeds, said electric hand dryers can potentially spread bacteria by blowing pathogens right back onto your hands after washing.
"This is the worst way to dry washed hands," he said.
"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," Wilcox noted.
After microbiologists compared jet air dryers to warm air dryers and paper towels, this is what they found:
- The jet air dryer dispersed 20 times more viruses than the warm air dryer and over 190 times more than paper towels, at six different heights.
- The impact of the virus was greatest at two and a half feet to 4.1 feet, which is about face-level for a small child.
- The jet air dryer sent out 20 times more viruses than the warm air dryer and over 190 times more viruses than paper towels, at nine different distances.
- Next to the dryers, bacteria persisted in the air well beyond the 15-second hand-drying time.
What should you use?
Wilcox said hand-washing is key to preventing the spread of bacteria but wet hands increase the risk of transmitting bacteria, so drying well is an equal step of prevention.
He, however, noted that hand-washing doesn't count if what one uses has bacteria and viruses all over them.
"Not everyone does a ‘good’ job in cleaning their hands. Once they dry the ‘dirty’ hands, they leave room for bacteria to spread,” Wilcox said.
Experts recommend using a sanitizer even after hand drying with 60 per cent alcohol, to be on the safe side.
So, next time you are faced with the option to use paper towels, sanitizers or hand dryers, make the smart choice.