Thursday, 17 February 2011

Hygiene and Hand Dryers

James Dyson's Airblade

I've never been a fan of hot air hand dryers.  One reason is because I never feel they quite dry my hands and another is they overheat any rings I may be wearing at the time.  On a hot day the last thing you want is hot air to dry your hands after you've used soap and hot water for washing.  My solution, if there are no paper towels available, is to use tissues to dry my hands.

In the past year there has been a heated argument between Dyson, the maker of the Airblade dryer and Kimberley Clark, the US paper towel corporation.  Last March, Kimberley Clark published research which claimed there are 'significant hygiene risks associated with jet air dryers and warm air dryers'.  The tissue paper trade organisation which prepared the report also claimed that jet air dryers increase bacteria on the hands by up to 42%.  Dyson retaliated by producing hygienic credentials including the Royal Society of Public Health and claiming his dryer was the only one to have the Carbon Trust's Carbon Reduction Label.

None of this impresses me.

Dr Karl states hand drying should not just remove water, it should also remove bacteria.  Researchers had a real surprise when they counted the bacteria left on the fingertips after paper towels, continuous-loop cotton towels and warm air dryers. Those who used the first two methods of hand drying reduced their bacterial count by about 45-60%, but washing and then using a warm air dryer increased the bacterial count by an average of 255%.

He asks:  How could drying your hands increase the number of bacteria on your skin? The answer seems to be inside the warm air dryers, thanks to the moist environment. Every single warm air dryer they tested had high bacterial counts on the air inlet, while 97% had them on the outlet nozzle surfaces as well.  These were the figures for warm air blowers in public toilets and of course, if you choose to do your measurements in a clean laboratory, you'll find lower bacterial counts.

According to Dr Karl, you can dry 90% of the surface area of our hand within 10 seconds with a towel.  If the towel is on one place in a washroom and the bin in another, you can dry 90% of your hands while you walk from one place to the next.  A warm air dryer can't dry your hands within 10 seconds.  On average it takes 50 seconds to dry 90% of your hands.

With the new jet air dryers (such as Dyson's) you can rub your hands together and dry 90% of your hands within 10 seconds. Dr Karl's advice is to get into the habit of regularly washing your hands with soap and hot water and drying them.  Using your jeans or even your hair is better than not drying them at all.

"And don't believe that warm air dryers were installed to improve hygiene.  They are purely a cost-cutting measure.  Anything else they tell you is a lot of hot air."  Indeed.


Woodsy42 said...

Personally I detest hot air driers. To walk into a large busy toilet, like a motorway services, with half a dozen of these things whizzing away with their excruciating high pitched whine assaulting the eardrums and reverberating from tiled walls is like entering the gates of some acoustic hell.
As for those Dyson things I can never get my hands into a place that triggers the machine and blows on the wet bits I'm trying to dry.

English Pensioner said...

I don't care! I think that we are becoming paranoid about hygiene.
Cleanliness is one thing, but these days I think hygiene (except in hospitals) is being overdone. All the time we are urged to buy antiseptic hand wash, antiseptic cleaners for kitchen surfaces, antiseptic wipes - the list is never ending.
My mother never bothered with these things - they didn't exist - but I can't remember either of us children going down with any of the illnesses normally associated with bad hygiene. Come to that, my mother managed without sell-by dates, and we never went down with food poisoning either.
With too much hygiene one fails to build up immunity against the common bacteria and there are now suggestions that it could be the cause of the increased incidence of allergies.
A couple of years ago, research was carried out in Bristol across different social classes which showed, not surprisingly, that the poorer tended not to be so hygiene concious, sticking mainly to soap and water, as against the better-off who used more antiseptic cleaners. Importantly, it also showed that the poorer classes tended to get far less minor illnesses which was attributed to their greater immunity. But there is no money in not selling something, so this type of research gets ignored.

Francis Urquhart said...

I have passed legislation so that all air hand dryers have a notice above them that says "Now wipe hands on clothes"

Joe Public said...

It is probably a truism that for many men, it's less unhygenic to hold one's willy whilst peeing, then simply walking out of the bog, than washing one's hands then warm-air drying them!

Billy said...

Funny we had the Floor Advisory Service or whatever they were called telling everyone years ago about how dirty carpets were and how bad they were for your health compared to wooden flooring until it was discovered that they were being funded by the wood flooring manufacturers themselves.

Manufacturers will always try to down their rivals whether it be the truth or not.

I hate the air hand dryers as well and all toilet doors in public places should open automatically when you go in and out to save you having to touch the handle when you are leaving as it is a waste of time washing your hands and then having to touch the handle and get the germs onto your hand from the people that don't bother their backsides washing their hands.

Delphius1 said...

I remember a study several years ago said exactly the same thing.

Okay, hot air dryers have moved on a little bit since then, but the fact is towels are replaced regularly, whereas a hot air dryer typically tends not to have any hygiene maintenance done to it at all.

Its common sense really.

Since that original study I've always preferred to use towels.

subrosa said...

You'll be another one who uses toilet paper to dry your hands then Woodsy. :)

subrosa said...

I care EP because it people don't bother to wash their hands after using a toilet then they're not going to bother when they're a patient or a visitor in a hospital.

However I agree with the nonsense about buying all these chemicals for domestic use. I use steam, bleach, Cif and occasionally Mr Muscle window cleaner. Oh and Brasso. That's my cleaning cupboard. There's a great big elbow in it too.

As you say we never had them when young and built up a good defence to average germs.

subrosa said...

Thank you Francis. I'm now legal if I can't find tissue.

subrosa said...

I suppose so Joe. What amazes me in public places is that we still have door handles. In some European countries people shove the door with their shoulder or foot. Makes more sense.

subrosa said...

Billy you're right. I didn't read your comment until I published it.

My carpets contain my germs. That's fine with me.

subrosa said...

After I wrote this Del I remembered some of the big stores in Perth now give a choice of hot air or paper towels. Much better.

hector said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hector said...

i think sometimes hand dryers are used to stop messy people from littering the toilet areas with wet germ filled paper towels

subrosa said...

There is that hector but if proper attention was given to these places then it wouldn't be a problem.

Observer said...

I like the Dysen driers, what really makes me ill is seeing women come out of the loo, not wash their hands let alone drying them, & then applying make up & dabbing at it with their fingers.

WTF? When did people stop being educated about basic things like hygiene?

An argument about towels-v- driers is quite lofty considering some of the mingers you see who don't wash at all - & some of them are quite posh & everything!

subrosa said...

I've never tried a Dyson drier Observer, but I'd love one of their new fans for the odd days it's warm in summer.

Aye, I see that often in certain posh shops. One woman said to me she'd wash off the germs when he got home, she was rushing to have lunch with a friend. I just hoped it's wasn't finger food.

Woodsy42 said...

English Pensioner said
"antiseptic cleaners for kitchen surfaces, antiseptic wipes !

yes, you are right. Every time I see that add - kills 99.9% of household germs - I mutter to myself that all they are doing is breeding the 1000th to be totally immune.

banned said...

There was a phone-in discussion about this on BBC Radio 2 a couple of weeks ago, none of the commenters mentioned that the argument was between rival manufacturers with their own agendas but it seems plausible

Overall I'm with English Pensioner
"I don't care! I think that we are becoming paranoid about hygiene."
I'd score very badly on most lifestyle choice surveys except the one that asks "when were you last so ill that you could not work?" A. dunno, 10, 15 years ago?

Joe Public said...

@ SR 23:15

"In some European countries people shove the door with their shoulder or foot."

But in most British bogs, the door opens inwards!

subrosa said...

I missed that one banned. It was Dr Karl's programme which caught my interest. As I said I'm a fan because the man is always willing to say he doesn't know something and when he's also unsure he always gives alternative viewpoints.

subrosa said...

Ah Joe. There's the answer as to why we have handles! Well spotted.

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