By Raima Saha, Co-Design Editor Loud. Flamboyant. Excessive. Unnecessary. A germophobe’s worst nightmare. Those are the words I think to myself every time I see, or rather hear, them: those heinous hand dryers. I look with disdain at the hand dryers attached to the wall in school bathrooms as they blow stale air through their...
By Raima Saha, Co-Design Editor
Loud. Flamboyant. Excessive. Unnecessary. A germophobe’s worst nightmare.
Those are the words I think to myself every time I see, or rather hear, them: those heinous hand dryers. I look with disdain at the hand dryers attached to the wall in school bathrooms as they blow stale air through their who-knows-how-old vents. On top of that, their discordant noises leave much to be desired in the hand washing realm.
The two types of hand dryers on the market, jet and hot air dryers, are not created equal. While jet air dryers use cooler air and greater amounts of force to remove water off your hands, hot air dryers, the ones installed in our school’s bathrooms, live up to their name by using warm air to evaporate water from hands. No matter the hand dryer, however, its fibrous paper towel counterparts are a much better option.
Simply put, hand dryers are not efficient; a Cambridge University study showed that paper towels removed residual water more effectively. They found that paper towels achieved 90% dryness after 10 seconds of drying versus hot air dryers, which took approximately 40 seconds to attain equivalent results. The jet air dryer also achieved comparable results to paper towels in a similar amount of time.
Although jet air dryers proved to be similarly efficient to paper towels, the latter are more hygienic. A study conducted by Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that paper towels reduced the number of all types of bacteria on hands. It was also found that jet air and hot air dryers increase almost all types of bacteria, though the jet air proved to deposit slightly less than that of the hot air dryer.
Additionally, friction aids with dislodging bacteria. Antibacterial hand soap often has very little time to remove all bacteria from hands in a single hand washing session, so physical force can help eliminate remaining bacteria. A University of Hyogo study found that lots of bacteria was on the paper towel after hand wiping, indicating further removal of bacteria. Because jet and hot air dryers lack this feature, they are ineffective in cleansing hands any further.
Paper towels also eliminate cross contamination. The University of Westminster found that jet air dryers spread bacteria up to two meters, well in the range of other hand dryers in the vicinity, while hot air dryers were found to spread bacteria underneath its vents. This contamination can spread airborne bacteria to other dryers which can then blow them onto hands and potentially spread illness.
A common argument for the hand dryer is that they are environmentally friendly. According to the University of Melbourne, hand dryers emit less greenhouse gases into the air than paper towels. While hand dryers may be saving the trees, hygiene is a virtue that must not be taken lightly. Especially in professional health settings, clean hands could be the difference between life and death.
Paper towels are beneficial in all settings. Fortunately, at Conestoga, you will never be subjected to using hand dryers, since paper towels are also provided. With allergy season fast approaching, hygiene is of utmost importance, and a little more vigilance could drastically reduce symptoms and promote immunity. It all starts with one paper towel at a time.
Raima Saha can be reached at [email protected].
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