I don’t consider myself to be a germaphobe, but it seems like only sanitary thing happening in a public restroom is the water that comes out of the faucet. And even that can be questionable.
Automatic hand dryers have been thought to be a huge help with not spreading germs in public restrooms, because not touching things helps to not spread gross germs, right? Wrong.
A new study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that Dyson Airblades (the self-proclaimed “most hygienic hand dryers” in existence) have the potential to spread 1,300 times more germs than paper towels. Why? Because the 420 mph sheets of air disperses the germs on your hands all across the bathroom. So if you didn’t do a solid washing job and there’s poop on your hands, there’s now poop all over everything.
Here’s how the study worked — researchers dipped their hands into a harmless viral solution and then dried them with Dyson Airblades, standard dryers and paper towels. Virus samples that were flung into the surrounding areas were then collected, and researchers concluded that Airblades flung the virus up to 10 feet away, while standard dryers infected only a two-foot radius and paper towels didn’t spread germs at all.
It’s not at all surprising that paper towels didn’t fling germs anywhere, because that’s not how paper works. But a 2011 study proved that paper towels hold onto dangerous germs and air dryers are the safest bet. Of course, a benefit to using dryers over paper towels is the lack of waste.
So even after science has gotten involved, you’re really left to make our your decision about how you prefer to dry your hands in public restrooms. But ultimately, if a restroom only offers one drying option, then it’s either that or wet hands. Or don’t wash your hands at all — but that creates an even grosser problem. Is grosser a word?