The best method to dry your hands after washing them in the bathroom is a little up in the air at the moment. As of now, there is a battle going on between air dryers and paper towels. A recent study from the University of Westminster in London, published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, found jet air hand dryers spread an overwhelming amount of bacteria compared to both paper towels and warm air dryer. Dyson, a jet air dryer company used in the study, is not taking these accusations lying down.

Paper Towels Found to be the Safest Hand Drying Option

According to the results of the London study, which tested virus dispersal at six different heights, jet air dryers produced 20 times more viral plaques than warm air dryers and a whopping 190 times more viral plaques than paper towels. What’s more, the height at which virus dispersal was strongest was about where the face of a small child would reach.

Urgent care specialist Dr. Theresa Lash-Ritter, spoke with the Cleveland Clinic about why paper towels would be so much better to use, bacteria-wise.

“Drying your hands with paper towels not only dries them faster, but the friction also dislodges bacteria to leave them cleaner,” Dr. Lash-Ritter said. She also explained that drying your hands is an integral piece of the hand washing process, as wet hands provide a greater risk of bacteria transmission than dry ones. How you dry your hands, it seems, is just as important.

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Dyson Fights Back

After the results of the study were released, a representative from Dyson spoke with Tech Insider about what the company argued were inaccuracies in the study’s findings.

“The paper towel industry has scare mongered with this research for the past four years,” the representative wrote in an email. “It has been conducted under artificial conditions using unrealistically high levels of virus contamination on unwashed, gloved hands.”

Dyson then provided a video called “Paper’s dirty secret,” which claimed 88 percent of unused paper towels contain bacteria that can be transferred to a person’s skin when used. According to the video, paper towels pick up tons of bacteria throughout the manufacturing, storage and handling processes, and once they are placed in a bathroom, they continue to absorb more from the air. Dyson explained to Tech Insider that its jet dryer, called Airblade, filters the air it uses before ever letting it blow out onto someone’s hands.

Why This Matters

The hand dryers versus paper towels debate matters especially for those who work in the food service and health care industries. In these two fields, clean hands are of the utmost importance for keeping people safe, and the Cleveland Clinic explained that this is why so much research has been devoted to proper hand hygiene.

Even the analysis of the London study brought up the importance of those in the food and health care industries to very carefully consider how they choose to dry their hands.

Another reason why this matters is we want to figure out what option is least likely to get us sick. According to a video message by Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more hand washing can result in the increased health of entire communities. He discussed how the more children wash their hands in schools, the lower their chances of getting sick and the higher their attendance. In essence, Frieden argues that more hand washing can help kids do better in school.

 

The struggle and discussion will continue but it can be agreed that hand washing is an important step in health and safety. The question of drying remains in the air.

 

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GUEST POST: Four Simple Ergonomic Steps to a More Productive Workplace

 

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