While using a public restroom is less than ideal in most circumstances, finding a nice-looking bathroom with a fancy jet air hand dryer can sometimes make the experience feel slightly less disgusting. However, new research suggests that drying your hands in restrooms actually helps to spread germs, and worse yet, that popular dryers like the Dyson Airblade basically spray germs all over the place. Wonderful.
In a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, scientists at the University of Westminster claim that jet air dryers spread germs 60 times more than ordinary hand dryers and as much as 1,300 times more than paper towels. Although this doesn't necessarily mean the dryers are blowing a stream of germs directly onto your hands, previous studies have suggested the amount of germs in the air is 27 times higher around such machines than it is around paper towel dispensers, according to a report by The Telegraph.
Specifically, the Westminster researchers coated their hands with a harmless virus, set a target nearby, then tested the three separate hand-drying methods -- paper towels, regular hand dryers, and jet air dryers -- to see how far each of them might spread the virus in the room. They found that levels of the virus were barely noticeable when paper towels were used, but that standard air dryers spread the virus more than two feet while the jet air dryers air blasts sprayed the virus about nine feet away, per the report. Really makes you hope people are actually washing all the germs off their hands before they dry them now, right?
It's worth noting, however, that the study appears to be the latest salvo in the ongoing war between hand dryer interests like Dyson and the paper towel industry. In fact, Dyson has already fired back at the claims with a spokesperson decrying the study as "scaremongering" and that it was "conducted in artificial conditions, according to a report by The Guardian. But regardless of what hand drying method is better or worse, one thing is clear: bathrooms -- especially public bathrooms -- are crawling with germs and, whether you like it or not, they will get on you.
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and feels like there's just no escaping viruses and bacteria in public restrooms regardless of what you use to dry your hands. Send news tips to email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.