For the past 8 years, I’ve scarcely used a bathroom hand dryer.
This is because my children are terrified of the noise, and the scream they emit after a hand dryer begins is loud enough to be heard two suburbs over.
Thus, I’m a paper towel or ‘shake it off’ kind of public restroom patron.
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I’ve just discovered a far more compelling reason to avoid using hand dryers, however.
A new study coming out of the University of Connecticut shows bathroom hand dryers are actually, legitimately, truly gross.
The study was just published in the American Society for Microbiology’s Applied and Environmental Biology journal (say that three times after a couple of wines!), and it found that hand dryers do more than just blast moisture from your skin.
In addition, they actually spray faecal bacteria (i.e. poo) from their outlets – as their fans suck up gross particles from the air, concentrate it, and then spray it onto your wet hands as you work to dry them off.
Think of them as warm, hot jets of filth-spreading air.
Around 30-seconds of blasting under the heat could expose your precious hands to an average of 18 to 60 colonies of bacteria, give or take.
At this point, we should note that the study was conducted over a very small sample size of just three premises, which means it doesn’t conclusively prove that all hand dryers belong to a secret bacteria-spreading society.
“While there is evidence that bathroom hand dryers can disperse bacteria from hands or deposit bacteria on surfaces, including recently washed hands, there is less information on… whether hand dryers provide a reservoir of bacteria, or simply blow large amounts of bacterially contaminated air,” the report authors note.
Either way, I think I’m going to stick with my original plan. When in the unfortunate position of having to use a public toilet, I shall continue to take a leaf out of Taylor Swift’s book and will “shake it off” or use a paper towel henceforth.
Interestingly, one of the study’s lead authors, Peter Setlow seems to be of the same opinion – as he told Newsweek that the bathrooms they tested now offer paper towels as well!