A wise man once said you can judge a public bathroom by their hand dryers. But as sleek as they look, those hand dryers might not be as hygienic as you think, according to a study on virus dispersal.
The study was published earlier this year in the Journal of Applied Microbiology and has more recently been stoking the fire of a longstanding rivalry between Dyson and paper towel manufacturers. The research looked at the virus dispersal of three different hand-washing methods: paper towels, conventional “warm air” dryers, and “jet dryers” such as the Dyson Airblade.
Their findings showed that the Airblade-type models spread 1,300 times more viral plaque-forming units than paper towels. Compared to “warm air” dryers, Airblades spread 60 times the amount. Among the grossest of their results, they found that jet dryers can fling viruses up to 3 meters (10 feet), while standard warm air dryers only managed 75 centimeters (2.5 feet) and hand towels just 25 centimeters (10 inches).
The Dyson Airblade has become a target of the media's coverage of the study due to their branding as “the fastest, most hygienic hand dryer.” However, the British technology company has questioned some of the methods used in the study.
Participants in the study were asked to wear gloves and wash their hands in a suspension of viruses. They were then asked to dry their hands using one of the three hand-drying methods. Dyson pointed out that this is an unrealistically high concentration of viruses, as a person would hopefully have washed their hands with soap and water before using the dryer.
Furthermore, Dyson suspect there might be foul play in the dark underbelly of the hand-drying industry. A spokesman for Dyson told The Independent: “The paper towel industry has scaremongered with this [type of] research for the past four years.”
They added: “It has been conducted under artificial conditions, using unrealistically high levels of virus contamination on unwashed, gloved hands.”
While the hand-drying business drama might haze the situation, it’s still worth taking the findings with a pinch of salt. Provided your hands are washed properly, then it's unlikely you'll get ill from a cloud of viruses blasted from across the bathroom. Then again, apparently none of us have been washing our hands properly.
Main image credit: Marcin Wichary/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)