The Hygiene of Hand Dryers … Should You Be Concerned?

    There have been some reports in the news recently that automatic hand dryers potentially represent a hygiene risk. Commissioned and funded by manufacturers or industries that financially benefit from the suggestion of a possible hygiene risk, it is usually easy to spot the bias, as their titles or content will be one-sided in their focus and conclusions.

    However, there are several unbiased reports that address the question of hygiene relating to the broader range of hand drying options.  As an example, an unbiased and non-sponsored report by the Mayo Clinic concluded in 2000 all hand drying methods are equally hygienic – including hand dryers.

    In a December 2012, a white paper titled “Personnel and Personal Hygiene”, by Camden BRI, a leading organization providing technical and advisory services to the food and drink industry to ensure product safety, noted: “Warm air dryers have been shown to be as effective as paper towels with respect to the number of bacteria recovered from hands after washing and drying.  In addition there is no evidence to show that warm air dryers contaminate the air…”

    Let’s examine some of the two of the most popular myth around hand dryers and hygiene:

    Myth #1: Hand dryers blow dirty air onto clean, washed hands.

    Some reports suggest the air from a hand dryer contaminates clean, washed hands.

    Fact: The air from the hand dryer is the same air we are breathing when visiting public restroom.  If hand dryer represented a health risk, the US Surgeon General would most likely issue an advisory on the subject. It hasn’t happened because it isn’t fact.

    Myth #2: Restroom hand dryers contaminate the air with bacteria.

    This suggestion implies warm air hand dryers are an inviting environment for breeding colonies of bacteria onto clean, washed hands, reducing the air quality in restrooms.

    Fact: Many hand dryers include anti-microbial features to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew and fungi.  Silver ion technology like Steritouch® found on World Dryer products have been tested and shown to be effective against commonly known pathogens like E Coli, and MRSA.  This eliminates the concern of hand dryers being breeding grounds.

    Additional Fact:  Many of the newer hand dryers include HEPA filters that are 99.97% effective or greater in filtering particles and microorganisms up to 0.3 microns in size.  This improves the air quality of the air passing through the hand dryer beyond the normal washroom environment and will capture some – but not all – bacteria and viruses depending on the size of the microorganism.

    Studies of this type often test the hygiene of hand dryers in staged washroom environments. They are artificial conditions inherently conducive to yield the results desired.  In some cases, studies introduce artificial sources of bacteria to reportedly demonstrate bacteria be spread by the air of hand dryers.

    Of course, hygiene is a concern for us as consumers—as well as for the manufacturers creating the products you use. Manufacturers have listened to consumer-driven concerns and designed options that minimize the need to touch any surface in a public restroom whenever possible.

    At World Dryer, our hand dryers come equipped with antimicrobial technology—and our newest hand dryer, VERDEdri, adds to that a HEPA filter—both designed to shield against the build-up of bacteria as well as improve efficiency and drying times to further bolster sanitary safeguards.