Bathroom hand dryers are in the news, and it's not pretty. Live Science writer Mindy Weisberger says, "Restroom hand dryers don't just blow — they also suck," Weisberger writes. "When they hoover up air, they also siphon in bacteria, which includes microbes carried into the room on people's skin, and those left behind by waste after a person uses and flushes a lidless toilet. Then, after sucking these microbes up, the dryers spew them out again — in abundance, according to a recent study."
CBS Pittsburgh goes for the full gross-out, "Bathroom Hand Dryers Spray Feces Particles On Your Hands, Study Says":
So what's a responsible hand washer to do once they've washed their hands for the recommended 20 seconds? Ideally, we recommend shaking your hands to get most of the water off and then drying them with a clean towel or paper towel. (This cool and practical TED Talk shows how to use a 12-shake method to minimize the amount of paper towel needed.) However, many establishments have jettisoned paper towels entirely in favor of hand dryers. In that case, sticking with the shake is probably your best option.
Handwashing remains one of the most powerful actions you can take to protect yourself from germs. This study, the findings of which were originally published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, doesn't change that. But it's a good reminder that handwashing is a process. Despite how many times a day we do it, we can always use a reminder about how to properly wash your hands. To spread the word (and not the germs) to the people in your life, download and print out this free poster from Project WET and Ecolab: