One Image Shows Just How Gross Bathroom Hand Dryers Can Be

One Image Shows Just How Gross Bathroom Hand Dryers Can Be
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

If you prefer hand dryers to paper towels, you might not like what you're about to see.

That's how germs spread when you dry your hands in a public restroom, according to a new study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection. Paper towels, the study concluded, are a far superior option.

How it worked: Researchers at the University of Leeds put paint on subjects' hands and then had them clean up using different commonly found drying methods. The splotch you can see in the photo shows how far paint droplets traveled under the standard dryer — meaning that if someone doesn't wash their hands correctly, that's where germs could end up after they dry.

According to the study, nearby air bacteria counts were 27 times higher when using a jet air dryer than when using paper towels. That result held for distances as far as one meter away from the drying process.

"Jet air and warm air dryers result in increased bacterial aerosolization when drying hands," the study concluded. "These results suggest that air dryers may be unsuitable for use in healthcare settings, as they may facilitate microbial cross-contamination via airborne dissemination to the environment or bathroom visitors."

The eternal debate: It's another victory for paper towels in the struggle for bathroom supremacy. About 80% of infectious diseases are spread with hands, so picking the right method is actually pretty important (especially in hospitals and other areas with lots of sick people).

Source: YouTube

If everyone washed their hands properly, it wouldn't be as big a deal. But we are impatient and imperfect, which can lead to problems. Paper towels take only about 10 seconds to dry our hands, according to AsapSCIENCE, compared to 45 seconds for air dryers. People are more likely to cut out early with dryers, wiping their hands on their pants or just using the door handle with wet hands. Your gross jeans and the even grosser bathroom door can serve to undo all the washing you just did. And if that doesn't convince you, maybe TV's favorite science nerds will:

Source: YouTube


So if given a choice the next time you're in a public bathroom, take the paper towels. And if an air dryer is all that's available, just stick it out and avoid using your pants.

h/t New York Magazine

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

MORE FROM

The six words that will make you sound smarter than all your friends when watching the eclipse

What is an umbra? How does the Saros cycle work? The total solar eclipse, explained.

Do you have little freckles in your eyes? This might be why.

Remember to protect your eyes.

The US desperately needs computer science majors, so keep coding

There are more than 500,000 computing jobs open in the US right now.

The 2017 solar eclipse will help scientists figure out just how much energy we get from the sun

Reflections are tricky things — as we'll learn when August's total solar eclipse hits.

No, Mars didn’t grow 12 more moons — here’s what’s happening in this stunning picture

Mars and the mysteriously multiplying moon.

Scooby-Doo’s real name isn’t Scoobert Doobert

It's time to call Scooby by his real name.

The six words that will make you sound smarter than all your friends when watching the eclipse

What is an umbra? How does the Saros cycle work? The total solar eclipse, explained.

Do you have little freckles in your eyes? This might be why.

Remember to protect your eyes.

The US desperately needs computer science majors, so keep coding

There are more than 500,000 computing jobs open in the US right now.

The 2017 solar eclipse will help scientists figure out just how much energy we get from the sun

Reflections are tricky things — as we'll learn when August's total solar eclipse hits.

No, Mars didn’t grow 12 more moons — here’s what’s happening in this stunning picture

Mars and the mysteriously multiplying moon.

Scooby-Doo’s real name isn’t Scoobert Doobert

It's time to call Scooby by his real name.