Are hand dryers sanitary?
After we wash our hands, we are often given two choices: should we choose the toilet hand dryer, or the paper towels? Which is more environmentally-friendly and which is the more sanitary option? Also, is there a difference between conventional hand dryers and newer blade models? Where does the electricity come from? What about paper towels, are they recycled? The real answer to all these questions is that it’s complicated. Obviously, as we all know, the way we wash our hands is hugely important; effective washing can reduce the amount of bacterial and viruses that can then be transferred elsewhere. The value of effective hand washing has been extensively studied, but there has been much less research looking at the role hand drying plays.
Warm air dryers vs blade dryers
In the past, some newspapers have reported that using a commercial hand dryer after washing your hands “is so unhygienic that it might be better to not wash at all”. Should we also rub or should we not rub our hands under the dryer? What about bacteria and viruses? Whilst some conventional electric hand dryers have been shown to indeed exacerbate the issue, recent studies show that blade hand dryers, when used for the recommended 10 seconds, are more effective than conventional warm air dryers at removing bacteria from the hands. Research has also shown that keeping your hands still, instead of rubbing them, decreases the amount of bacteria on them. Newer blade models are ultra-rapid and use two high-pressure streams of filtered room-temperature air to blow water off the hands, which are drawn through the airstream.
Researchers have concluded that people are more likely to actually dry their hands properly with a blade dryer and the design discourages you to rub your hands meaning bacteria transfer is less likely.
Another worry is whether these rapid hand dryers actually make the problem of bacteria transfer worse by sucking in bacteria and viruses in the toilets, that’s then deposited on clothing etc.
Our new blade style hand dryers have Hepa filters in them which capture very small particles, including any bacteria and other contaminants from the air. They also have an added UV light that safely and effectively kill bacteria.
So, we’ve cleared up the problem of which hand dryer is better but we still haven’t answered whether you should choose low energy fast hand dryers over paper towels. Hand dryers in general can get a bad press, mainly stemming from manufacturers of paper towels, but should we listen?
Essentially, hand dryers are significantly cheaper to run and can save organisations large amounts of money compared to the costs of paper towels. Hand dryers are the noiseier option though so paper towels may be the better choice for areas that require very low noise levels.
Let’s look at the science though. According to Healthfully, the average dryer uses 0.018 kilowatt hours of electricity for 30 seconds, or around 2,200 watts of power total to run. This means that approximately 26.61 pounds of carbon dioxide is given out when it is used three times per day. Environmentally, the energy intensive process to produce paper towels compares unfavourably to this, and even recycled paper towels have been found to be less eco-friendly than the latest breed of fast low energy hand dryers. The worst performing of them all were the warm air dryers, which have been found to be up to 80% less efficient than a Bremmer blade dryer. The conclusion? The option to choose (over 90% of the time), is the newer low energy dryer with hepa filter and UV light, which has been shown to be the most efficient, hygienic and greener option.