The Engineer's Notebook Blog

The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

Previous in Blog: Coffee-carrying Drone to the Rescue   Next in Blog: Should Electronics Be Banned From Classrooms?
Close
Close
Close
30 comments

Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

Posted September 15, 2018 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: Germs hand dryers

I’ve been avoiding jet-air hand dryers in public restrooms ever since I first saw the film Desperately Seeking Susan. Appalled by the scene where Madonna rotates a hand dryer nozzle upward so that she can dry her armpits, I have, from that moment on, opted for paper towels to dry my hands after a good, Silkwood-style washing.

And if paper towels weren’t an option, I would choose instead to dry off using whatever clothing I had worn that had not run the risk of touching Madonna’s armpit.

Now it seems I’m not alone in my aversion to jet-air hand dryers….

According to research recently published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, researchers are arguing that jet-air hand dryers should no longer be used in hospital restrooms as they are responsible for spreading more germs than paper towels.

According to Mark Wilcox, professor of medical microbiology at the University of Leeds and study supervisor, new evidence suggests that guidance concerning the prevention of bacterial contamination in hospital settings needs to address the use of jet-air hand dryers and their role in bacterial contamination.

To observe bacterial spread in a real-world setting, researchers analyzed toilets in use at three different hospitals in the UK, France and Italy. All of the toilets were equipped with both paper towel dispensers and jet-air hand dryers, yet only one of them was in operation each day.

According to Professor Wilcox: “The problem starts because some people do not wash their hands properly.

"When people use a jet-air dryer, the microbes get blown off and spread around the toilet room.

"In effect, the dryer creates an aerosol that contaminates the toilet room, including the dryer itself and potentially the sinks, floor and other surfaces, depending on the dryer design and where it is sited. If people touch those surfaces, they risk becoming contaminated by bacteria or viruses.

"Jet-air dryers often rely on no-touch technology to initiate hand drying. However, paper towels absorb the water and microbes left on the hands and if they are disposed of properly, there is less potential for cross-contamination."

The study, led by researchers from the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, focused on levels of bacterial contamination in the bathrooms over the course of 12 weeks, with samples taken to reflect when both the hand-dryers and the paper towels were in use.

After reviewing the data, the teams concluded that bacterial counts were higher in the restrooms during those periods when the hand dryers were in use.

Professor Wilcox said: "We found multiple examples of greater bacterial contamination on surfaces, including by faecal and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, when jet-air dryers rather than paper towels were in use. Choice of hand drying method affects how likely microbes can spread, and so possibly the risk of infection."

Frédéric Barbut, Professor of Microbiology at Saint Antoine (Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris), said: "The higher environmental contamination observed when using jet air-dryers compared with paper towels increases the risk for cross-contamination.

"These results confirm previous laboratory-based findings and support the recent French guidelines regarding hand hygiene, which discourage using jet-air dryers in clinical wards."

For more on the study, go to the Journal of Hospital Infection.

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Guru
Engineering Fields - Optical Engineering - Member Engineering Fields - Engineering Physics - Member Engineering Fields - Systems Engineering - Member

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Trantor
Posts: 5363
Good Answers: 646
#1

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/15/2018 8:24 AM

Was this supposed to be a question?

I think most people figured out a long time ago that those hot air hand dryers are germ machines.

I've always grabbed some napkins if I ever needed to use the restroom at a fast food joint, knowing that those places always had the germ spreaders.

__________________
Whiskey, women -- and astrophysics. Because sometimes a problem can't be solved with just whiskey and women.
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: by the beach in Florida
Posts: 32883
Good Answers: 1795
#2

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/15/2018 11:10 AM

Just wear 3 sets of surgical gloves and instead of washing your hands just strip a layer of latex....

__________________
All living things seek to control their own destiny....this is the purpose of life
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 42369
Good Answers: 1683
#3

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/15/2018 9:17 PM

One thing is clearly evident here.

This thread has exposed deep seated psychological problems regarding Mysophobia, or verminophobia, or germophobia, or bacillophobia and bacteriophobia, or whatever your favorite name is. City boys, I guess.

Perhaps sterile tongs and rubber gloves are your answer.

Reminds me of a joke.

Army guy(or pick you arm of the service) and Marine guy (or pick you arm of the service) are in the john at the urinals. They finish, and one (pick you arm of the service) washes his hands and the other starts to leave. Hand washer guy says, "hey, don't they teach you guys to wash your hands in the (pick you arm of the service)? The non-wash guys says, "no, they teach us not to pee on 'em."

Reply
Commentator
Safety - Hazmat - New Member Popular Science - Cosmology - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: H Town, TX
Posts: 74
Good Answers: 1
#26
In reply to #3

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 5:05 PM

I once went to the restroom after the front nine and washed my hands before going to the urinal. One of the guys in my foursome says, "You're the only guy I've ever seen who washes his hands before he takes a leak."

I said, "My hands are dirty, my peter is clean."

True story.

Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
2
Guru
Engineering Fields - Nuclear Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Louisville, OH
Posts: 1784
Good Answers: 34
#4

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/15/2018 11:26 PM

I've been avoiding the jet dryers for a different reason. They are so noisy that you need hearing protection! I don't get hyper about germs anyway--keep your immune system built up by exposure and you don't have to worry much.

__________________
Lehman57
Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
3
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 716
Good Answers: 33
#5

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/15/2018 11:55 PM

I don't think there's much danger that Madonna used the bathroom before me, even with all the unisex bathrooms around. Also, maybe armpits aren't the biggest source of bacteria, compared with, say, sneezing.

Part of what you are saying is squeamishness, at the idea of someone's body part touching something that you might touch. But would you shake hands with a stranger? Would you kiss an attractive stranger? Would you kiss a part of a stranger's body? Standards of behavior may change depending on circumstances.

Squeamishness knows no bounds. I had a guest at my place who was totally disgusted by the fact that the very effective brush I was using to clean the insides of jars was actually being sold as a toilet brush, or at least she thought it looked like one. I had no idea that it was, and in any case it had never seen the inside of a bathroom. Nevertheless, she would not be mollified.

More on point, I see a little problem with the logic here. You are not in any danger from your own bacteria, seeing as how they are, ahem, your own bacteria. You've already have whatever diseases you are carrying. If you want to avoid them, it's too late.

The problem is that the bathroom is already contaminated when you enter the restroom. If someone used the blow dryer before you get there, their bacteria are already spread around, and are in the air and on all the surfaces. The lesson is not to use the paper towels instead of the blow dryer, but to go outside in the bushes.

On the other hand, if we are not in a hospital, exchanging bacteria may be really healthy for our microbiome.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/26/the-human-microbiome-why-our-microbes-could-be-key-to-our-health

That is how I learned to relax and love the biome.

__________________
canary
Reply Good Answer (Score 3)
Guru

Join Date: May 2006
Location: Placerville, CA (38° 45N, 120° 47'W)
Posts: 6137
Good Answers: 246
#7
In reply to #5

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/16/2018 1:01 AM

GA!

As a child, and well into adulthood, I was totally unaware of the multitude of microorganisms on and in our bodies, and made zero effort to avoid adding to my existing collection. I grew up pretty much in the country; I went many places barefoot, and swam in ponds where visibility through the water was a fraction of an inch. I'm not aware of having suffered any negative consequences of those actions, except when I stepped barefoot on some weld electrodes in a genuine blacksmith shop.

I still rarely use gloves while gardening, and when I do, it is not to protect me from microbes, but to protect my thinning skin from tears and scratches.

I've long been convinced that the best way to deal with microorganisms is usually to acquire small doses through normal activity, and build up natural resistance. There's more to the story, but I won't go into that right now....

__________________
Teaching is a great experience, but there is no better teacher than experience.
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Center of the Known Industrial Universe - TUGGERAH 2259 - Australia
Posts: 258
Good Answers: 52
#6

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/16/2018 12:42 AM

When I was young and stupid (I'm not young anymore) I exhibited at numerous trade shows held in exhibition centers. As an exhibitor I needed to shake hands with hundreds of people each exhibition day, so occasionally I would dwell longer in the washroom to observe their hand washing habits. To avoid suspicion of my motives I would re-tie my shoe laces, comb my hair, work on an imagined stain on my suitcoat to justify being there awhile. Here's the statistic, constant over ten years or so, of hand washing by males at trade shows:

After #1: 40% wash, 60% head straight for the door.

After #2: 30% wash, 70% head straight for the door. Yes, the higher risk activity is followed by LESS hand washing.

Summary: Two hands in three that I shook on my company's stand were unwashed despite a toilet trip, and the third hand probably smelled of Madonna's armpits.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Hemel Hempstead, UK
Posts: 5740
Good Answers: 309
#15
In reply to #6

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 7:08 AM

I suspect that your somewhat transparent loitering tactics, and your targets suspicions about the intensions, had an effect on the statistical outcome.

__________________
We are alone in the universe, or, we are not. Either way it's incredible... Adapted from R. Buckminster Fuller/Arthur C. Clarke
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: by the beach in Florida
Posts: 32883
Good Answers: 1795
#18
In reply to #6

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 10:06 AM

Maybe they used wet-naps to avoid the sinks and dryers...?

__________________
All living things seek to control their own destiny....this is the purpose of life
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Port Macquarie N.S.W. Australia
Posts: 1071
Good Answers: 225
#8

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/16/2018 4:31 AM

I am more concerned about the germs residing on the exit door pushes that the hand dryer, i avoid touching them at all costs.

The real problem with hand dryers such as you have shown is there almost complete inability to achieve required dryness in a reasonable time frame, by contrast, these new airblade hand dryers are superb, if you haven't tried them, i suggest that you give them a go.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Port Macquarie N.S.W. Australia
Posts: 1071
Good Answers: 225
#9
In reply to #8

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/16/2018 6:14 AM

My apologies for the poor spelling in my earlier post, damned predictive text on my phone and sheer laziness on my part re. manual checking.

Reply
Active Contributor

Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 12
Good Answers: 2
#21
In reply to #8

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 10:42 AM

The air blade technology - along with filtering the air drawn into the device - sounds really good for the amount of particulate matter inhaled while in the restroom. If your hands are pretty dry, your cell phone and the washroom door contaminants likely won't colonize you and cause an infection. After all, the studies sample the surfaces and then put the samples in a growth medium - something you don't keep your hands saturated with on a daily basis - and then pronounce those devices the dirtiest sources for infection. It would be unethical to maintain the surfaces with infectious material (not talking Ebola here, just normal restroom airborne contamination) and see how many contacts are required for those contaminated surfaces to cause just ONE infection in a healthy immune system individual....no question public restrooms and public contact are bad for immuno-compromised individuals.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 42369
Good Answers: 1683
#22
In reply to #21

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 11:13 AM

Well, now you've gone and done it!

You've ruined a lot of people's perfectly good phobias in one post.

While having a cookout at work, I took my pocket knife out to cut some meat on my plate. City girl sitting next went eeeeuu and asked me if my knife was clean. I gave her "the look" and said, "clean enough." (I grew up on a farm)

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: by the beach in Florida
Posts: 32883
Good Answers: 1795
#10

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/16/2018 11:52 AM

So is that a no, on appearing on an episode of Naked and Afraid???

__________________
All living things seek to control their own destiny....this is the purpose of life
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 42369
Good Answers: 1683
#11

Cell Phone or Toilet Seat?

09/16/2018 12:01 PM

If you've just finished drying your hands on your shirt/pants and your cell phone rings, remember this fact: Your Cell Phone Is 10 Times Dirtier Than a Toilet Seat | Time

Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Cosmology - Let's keep knowledge expanding Engineering Fields - Retired Engineers / Mentors - Hobbies - HAM Radio - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: North America, Earth
Posts: 4472
Good Answers: 105
#12
In reply to #11

Re: Cell Phone or Toilet Seat?

09/16/2018 3:10 PM

Well, I'm going to avoid trade shows and continue to avoid sporting events and cell phones!

__________________
“I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” - Richard Feynman
Reply
2
Active Contributor

Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: At the center of my universe
Posts: 16
Good Answers: 5
#13

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 1:41 AM

Most of my chemist friends wash their hands before they use the urinals.

__________________
Irreversible Thermodynamics is Cool
Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: by the beach in Florida
Posts: 32883
Good Answers: 1795
#28
In reply to #13

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/18/2018 12:37 PM

Yes a little bit of acid on the hands can really be traumatic....

__________________
All living things seek to control their own destiny....this is the purpose of life
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Hemel Hempstead, UK
Posts: 5740
Good Answers: 309
#14

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 7:01 AM

Something which has bugged me for a long time about rest rooms is the ratio of wash hand basins to dryers.

How long does it take to wash your hands?

How long does it take to dry your hands?

Why are there so many more wash hand basins than dryers.

__________________
We are alone in the universe, or, we are not. Either way it's incredible... Adapted from R. Buckminster Fuller/Arthur C. Clarke
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: by the beach in Florida
Posts: 32883
Good Answers: 1795
#30
In reply to #14

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/24/2018 10:09 AM

This one claims 5 - 15 seconds....with antibacterial...auto on...

__________________
All living things seek to control their own destiny....this is the purpose of life
Reply
2
Member

Join Date: Mar 2018
Posts: 5
Good Answers: 1
#16

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 7:39 AM

I'm 64 years old. I work in an office surrounded by 23 people who get sick multiple time a year. I haven't had as much as cold in 25 years. I don't use antibacterial products, they're forbidden in my house. I still defrost meat [yes, including poultry] on the kitchen counter. Get over your phobia over germs, let your immune system work. So we eliminate dryers in favor of polluting paper production which fills ground water and rivers with poisons. As a society we're to clean.

Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru
Engineering Fields - Nuclear Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Louisville, OH
Posts: 1784
Good Answers: 34
#20
In reply to #16

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 10:35 AM

let your immune system work.

I agree. Those children who are not exposed to multiple germs don't develop their immune system. This means that growing up going barefoot, playing in sandboxes that the neighborhood cats have used for litter boxes (find a turd, just throw it out and continue playing), and various other exposures accompanying outdoor activity means a more developed immune system, and likely results in less sickness in later life. But I often wonder if the more developed immune system results in more autoimmune diseases such as lupus and Crohn's?

__________________
Lehman57
Reply
Associate

Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 38
Good Answers: 4
#17

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 8:26 AM

Paper! Always use paper. And LOTS of it! It's safer, more energy efficient, and aesthetically pleasing. (Did I mention that I work in the paper industry?)

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
4
Active Contributor

Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 12
Good Answers: 2
#19

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 10:27 AM

As a physician, I feel impelled to comment. Much of what has been written is psychologically derived prejudice (or preference, choose your term) and I'd agree with the desire to eliminate risk of using a drying device that blew someone's armpits - or other pits - dry. So paper towels are my choice for drying in a restroom.

As far as the concept of air flow spreading germs (or fomites as the older surgeons used to say), each time you open a door you create air currents that move dander, bacteria, viral particulates, etc. around the restroom. I don't use the warm air dryers because of noise rather than airborne infectious particulates - my immune system should be active enough to manage the particulates of a restroom.

Each flush of a toilet or urinal also sends thousands of particulates into the restroom air - feel rest assured you are contaminated with your own E.coli and other bowel bacteria so little fear of any strange and new exposure when you appropriately flush your own waste. But you walk into a restroom after that stranger from mars just flushed....well, you may have just inhaled something your immune system never saw before. Again, rest assured you probably didn't inhale a large enough quantity of 'colony forming units' to lead to illness IF there was something you had no immunity to in the first place, but still - wash your hands. For other people's opinion of you and for decent hygiene.

Why do physicians wash their hands BEFORE examining infectious patients? To protect the patients from previous patients and from whatever we might have picked up in the hallway and off the door knob. Why do we frequently go write notes or open doors without washing again? Human nature - and a healthy respect for our immune systems. Let your children get dirty, share virions, play around dogs and cats. A healthy dose of priming the immune system is necessary and may be protective for our gut, our airway, and our lives.

What happens in a restroom - unless you have a different kind of fetish - is likely inconsequential to your overall health whether you use towels, air dryers, or nothing at all. Previous exposure is protective - when sanitation eliminated polio transmission (poop) prior to a healthy immune system (advent of chlorinated water supply), infants drinking family water supply were inoculated without the paralyzing reaction 2 year old and older immune systems go through. Diphtheria, Cholera, and other infections don't have a protective window for inoculation like polio so on the whole, a sanitary sewer system & water supply system - separately maintained of course - are very worthwhile. Just saying, worrying about poop and piss and the drying of hands is a wasted activity if you do two things: first - don't piss or poop on your hands; second - wash thoroughly with soap....sing the alphabet song or hail to the queen (or the chief if in USA - Trump would appreciate being thought of in the toilet), and try not to touch the door handle with wet hands. If you didn't know, water is the survival/travel medium for many infections. Let your hands dry, use the paper towel to open the door, or just trust your immune system and wash thoroughly before you eat. Just enjoy life for as long as you can - Madonna be damned!

Reply Good Answer (Score 4)
Power-User

Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Minnesota, USA
Posts: 109
Good Answers: 8
#23

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 11:17 AM

Definitely paper towels but for a different reason.

I live in Minnesota which is (was) a paper tree farming state. The other day one of my customers, which is a sawmill, told me about an investor who approached him about clear-cutting a 6500 acre, unharvested and overgrown tree farm he had just purchased. He wanted to develop it for a different purpose. The process used is to Bulldoze the trees into a big pile and burn them.

Many tree farms and paper mills are closing in this state, largely in part to the 'Save a Tree' slogan. People think they are saving that mighty old Oak tree in front of Gamma's house when they read that. They don't realize that paper trees are fast-growing hybrids that are farmed and replanted as soon as they are harvested.

__________________
OpMan
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 716
Good Answers: 33
#24

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 11:52 AM

Keypads on ATMs are apparently a great way to exchange bacteria. And also your food. At least if you live in NYC.

https://www.upi.com/ATM-keypads-covered-in-bacteria/9331479332277/

__________________
canary
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 716
Good Answers: 33
#25

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 12:03 PM

Breaking news! Stop the pixels!

Today a paper was published in the Journal of the Canadian medical Association finding that using a lot of household cleaning products, messes up kids' microbiome and can make them overweight.

https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2018/09/17/Study-Household-products-associated-with-overweight-kids/7211537189194/

So being too clean can mess up your microbiome, and also using those chemicals to be too clean messes them up even more.

OK, start the pixels again. Whew.

__________________
canary
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: NYC until mid 2015, currently NC
Posts: 756
Good Answers: 8
#27

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/17/2018 10:45 PM

Simple reason for dryer installations: $$$$!

No stock of paper towels required, no janitor or maintenance person required to restock empty dispensers.

__________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 42369
Good Answers: 1683
#29

Re: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

09/18/2018 2:49 PM

Hot air dryers remove water by evaporation and direct air movement mainly downwards. In contrast, jet air dryers remove water through forces in opposite directions and dispersion into the air, and can generate speeds over 370 mph. According to the Westminster study, jet dryers, due to their speed and construction, spread an average of 60 times more of the tested virus than the warm air dryer, and 1,300 times more than paper towels. While the virus in the study was not dangerous, in reality, germs on hands often contain fecal matter, which can result in unpleasant and potentially dangerous illnesses such as norovirus or E. coli if contaminated hands come in contact with the nose or mouth.

The Great Debate: Paper Towels vs. Air Dryers | Facility Management

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Reply to Blog Entry 30 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Canary (3); Casper71 (1); dkwarner (1); Ed Elton (1); Lehman57 (2); lyn (4); mountainwalker (1); OpMan (1); Qurmudgeon (2); Randall (2); Relativity PL (1); Rinkrat (1); sadibo (1); SolarEagle (5); spades (2); StandardsGuy (1); Usbport (1)

Previous in Blog: Coffee-carrying Drone to the Rescue   Next in Blog: Should Electronics Be Banned From Classrooms?

Advertisement