Photo of Hand Dryers in Public Bathroom
Credit: Claire Jackson / EyeEm via Getty Images

Brace yourself for this one, as it isn’t for the faint of heart. We all know that washing your hands regularly is very important, right? It helps prevent the spread of germs and remove any, ahem, remnants of your latest bathroom trip that may have inadvertently landed on your hands. However, it turns out your hands might not be as clean as you think they are after washing — depending on whether you choose hand dryers over paper towels, that is.

Are you ready to become obsessed with hand sanitizer? You might want to grab some before you continue reading.

Okay, so, certain particles return to the air in what’s called a “toilet plume” whenever a lidless toilet is flushed. This can shoot aerosolized feces as high as 15 feet into the air. (We all probably knew that, but still. Gross.) Anyway, those so-called “eco-friendly” hand dryers in most public restrooms? They actually suck up said fecal matter and spray it back onto your hands, according to a new study published in the April issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

This obviously makes the entire bathroom a little dirtier. Bathrooms without hand dryers, in fact, contain far fewer pathogens overall than those with them, the study found.

Just in case you’re wondering, this isn’t even the first study that says hand dryers can spread germs.

So, how can you make sure your hands are *actually* clean?

Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water. You may not actually have to use hot water to get your hands clean, but you do need to make sure you wash your hands for at least 10 seconds or more (depending on what you’re washing off).

This particular study suggests using paper towels, but there really hasn’t been much research on the best way to dry your hands. Think your reusable towels at home are a safe bet? Turns out those are also dirtier than you think.

Basically, the world is pretty gross. Remember that bathrooms generally aren’t very clean places, from hand dryers to the door handles and beyond. So, please — always wash your hands.