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In the Wrong Hands, Jet Dryers Do More Harm than Good

Photo of hand washing

What’s grosser than gross? Turns out it may not be that guy who didn’t wash his hands after using the restroom. A new study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology reports that jet dryers (such as the Dyson Airblade) spread more germs than warm air dryers or paper towels. Rather than being a solution that is quick, sanitary, and environmentally friendly, jet dryers can blast pathogen-infested water vapor all over a restroom.

Perspective is everything. Dyson Corporation points out that proper hand washing — vigorous 20-second scrubbing with soap and water — will leave nothing objectionable for the Air Blade to fling around the room. And isn’t proper hand washing what we all wanted in the first place?

We all agree: Hand washing is important and, more important, a tremendous value. A squirt of soap and twenty seconds of scrubbing effectively prevents the spread of a huge range of nasties, including norovirus, Salmonella, E. coli, and even hand-foot-mouth disease (all of which disproportionately affect children under the age of 5 — who, coincidentally, are face-level to most wall-mounted jet dryers.

But real life happens, and the answers we look for lie somewhere between the two extremes of jet-powered pathogen distribution and absolutely perfect hand hygiene. Shocking findings like this are ripe for further public health research. How do we get away from disposable paper towels and maintain a safe, clean public environment?

[Photo credit: jar[o], CC BY 2.0]