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Microbiological Comparison of Hand-Drying Methods:
The Potential for Contamination of the Environment, User,
and Bystander

Published by Journal of Hospital Infection3

This study tested how microbes are spread when using three methods of hand drying – jet air dryers, warm air dryers and paper towels – in a public washroom. Researchers first measured amounts of bacteria in the immediate vicinity, as well as one METRE away from all three hand drying devices. This part of the study found that bacteria counts were higher in the air immediately next to the jet air dryers, than that of warm air dryers and paper towel dispensers. Bacteria counts were also higher in the air surrounding the jet air dryers, versus the warm air dryers and paper towel dispensers, when researchers tested air samples taken one METRE from the devices.

A second part of this study involved researchers coating participants’ hands with water-based black paint to mimic wet hands after washing. Researchers also selected bystanders to stand near the drying area wearing disposable suits. The subjects’ hands were subsequently dried using three different drying methods – jet air dryers, warm air dryers and paper towel dispensers – and researchers then observed the number of water droplets left on both the participants as well as the bystanders. When jet air dryers and warm air dryers were used, researchers found droplets on both the test subject and the bystander. That number of droplets was higher when a jet air dryer was used. The majority of the droplets were seen in the chest region. Researchers observed no paint droplets on either the participant or the bystander after using a paper towel.

 

3Best, E. L., P. Parnell, and M. H. Wilcox. "Microbiological comparison of hand-drying methods: the potential for contamination of the environment, user, and bystander." Journal of Hospital Infection 88.4 (2014): 199-206.

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