Environmentally-friendly. Energy-saver. Sanitary.
Fact. Fact. MYTH!
These are just a few terms that come to mind when we think about using the dryers in restrooms, as opposed to tree-population-threatening paper towels. But hand dryers can actually promote the circulation of bacteria in the air onto your hands, your belongings, and the facility itself!
When a person uses the dryer, bacteria from their hands circulate in the air for an average of 15 minutes. While this spiral is happening, germs and bacteria are airborne, effectively spreading onto all surfaces. The significance of all this comes to play in hospital restrooms, where patients should not be subject to bacterial infections, especially antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
An experiment was conducted to determine whether a jet dryer or paper towel would produce the least bacteria in the air. The study was able to definitively conclude that with paper towels, bacterial circulation declined, lowering the amount of bacteria in air and surfaces on the facility.
Dryers are also a haven for bacteria because of the warm and moist environment they create, a perfect setting for bacteria to thrive. This promotion of bacterial growth contributes to further contaminated air. In addition, in college or school settings, bacteria from bathrooms with hand dryers are able to spread to nearby classrooms and laboratories. This presents as a risk of infection.
Perhaps the insertion of specialized filters would eliminate bacteria immediately as it passes through the dryer. This would lower the chance of picking up an infection in the restroom. Recently, HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air) have been inserted in dryers. These filters comb through the air with their fine mesh and traps bacterial particles. HEPA filters are also found in air purifiers and are slowly being incorporated in hand dryers.
For now, paper towels are still the most hygienic solution to hand-drying. Overall, despite the horror of bacteria circulation, there is still a relatively low chance of picking up an infection from these restroom-common bacteria populations (Clostridium difficile).
We know this because certain types of bacteria are present in restrooms and other environments we frequent, and they do not regularly cause disease.
Nevertheless, paper towels are still the best option. No matter the effectiveness of the filter in a hand dryer, the air blown out will still promote movement of bacteria from lidless toilet-flushing.