We’re all taught as children that washing our hands is the best way to stave off disease. But if you use a hand dryer in a public restroom after cleaning up, you’re actually doing more harm than good. Has the viral dirty hand dryer report been blown out of proportion? Today, 5/4/2018, investigative reporter Jenna Wolfe reveals the backstory behind the germ photo that made news and social media headlines when a student was assigned a petri dish analysis from an area that could contain germs. She chose a hand dryer. After posting a picture of the germs, it went viral.
Oz’s team did the same thing to see if the reports coming out of the air dryers containing bacteria were accurate.
24 samples were sent to the lab: Only 1 had signs of bad bacteria!
The problems come into play when people do not wash their hands enough before they go under the air dryer. Using paint on his hand, a demonstration showed how germs can spread when hands are dirty under the dryers.
The rule is 20 seconds of rubbing vigorously with soap and water when cleaning your hands. The recommendation is to use paper towels and rub your hands just like you did when cleaning, to dry them. Also, use the paper towels to open and close the doors.
However; according to a new study from the University of Connecticut, hot-air dryers do suck in bacteria and other spores loitering in the bathroom. But when the next person uses the dryer, that same bacteria is sucked back out again onto “clean” hands. Researchers placed bacteria food on Petri dishes in 36 bathrooms in UConn health and science buildings to see how often bacteria would land on the plates. When the dryers were off, there was only about one bacterial landing every two minutes. But when the dryers were on for 30 seconds, an average of 18 to 60 bacteria appeared on the dishes. These numbers were far higher in some cases–at one point, 254 bacteria landed on a plate in less than a minute. And thanks to the airflow from the dryers, when people opened the door, the redistributed bacteria was spread throughout the whole building.
Jenna Wolfe and Oz gave us a quiz to see how dirty we are making our own bathrooms:
Quiz for everyday bathroom habits
- How often are you washing your bathroom towels after you use them? Wolfe said the answer was every week for keeping your bathroom germ-free.
- How often do you change your body sponge? Wolfe said to replace it every month. It needs to stay dry.
- Do you close your toilet seat when you flush? Yes, you should. Germs can go out from the toilet as far as 6 feet when you flush! Oz says most people’s toothbrushes contain e-coli from being so close to the toilet.
Wherever there are people, there are gonna be bacteria so use paper towels and throw them in the trash.
Photo courtesy of Bing.com