Don’t use bathroom hot-air hand dryers!

April 11, 2018 • 12:16 pm

I almost never use bathroom hand dryers, though I always wash my hands scrupulously (one reason, I think, that I didn’t get colds or the flu this year). But the reason has been time, not sanitation: it takes a long time for those things to dry your mitts, and I don’t like to linger in public bathrooms. Instead, if there are no paper towels, I will shake my hands off and let them air dry.

But now there’s an even better reason to avoid public hand dryers—both the hot-air dryers with nozzles and the jet dryers, shown respectively below:

That reason is bacteria. According to articles in BoingBoing, Ars Technica, and other places, based on a new scientific paper, these dryers spray potentially dangerous bacteria and viruses onto your hands—bacteria you wouldn’t get if you used paper towels or used the Coyne air-drying method.

Why? Because the hot air these things blow onto your wet hands has to come from somewhere, and it comes from the bathroom, where bacteria are floating around in the air, often expelled there by flushing the toilet. The dryers rapidly push a hot cocktail of bacteria and their spores (which can survive high temperatures) onto your hands, which you can then transfer to your body by touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.  These bacteria can include, as the studies below suggest, Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Bacillus subtilis, and Clostridium difficile, as well as dangerous viruses. (Flu is, after all, caused by a virus.) It’s much worse than waving your hands around in the air, as a huge volume of air gets applied to your hands with the dryers.

Although we’ve known for three years that the dryers can disperse microbes from your hands to the bathroom at large, the news media are touting this new paper about how the devices themselves deposit microbes on your hands. You can access the paper by clicking on the screenshots. I’ve added the abstract in so you can see the extra bacteria deposited by dryers on a sterile plate (read: your hands after washing) compared to the air in the bathroom as a whole or bathroom air moved by a small fan. You can get the paper (free pdf if you have the legal Unpaywall app), by clicking on the screenshot. It’s in in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a good journal:

Remember that these data were collected in bathrooms attached to “research facilities” (science buildings), but the relative enrichment of bacteria will certainly obtain in public bathrooms as well, though perhaps not the same numbers below.

Note the comparison:

Hand dryer (nozzle) for 30 seconds: 18-60 bacterial colonies per plate
Bathroom air (hand dryers off): less than one colony per plate
Plate blown by small fan in bathroom for 20 min: 12-15 colonies per plate
Hand dryers retrofitted with HEPA filters: about 11-16 colonies per plate

Even the Coyne method puts far fewer bacteria on your hands than a dryer with a HEPA filter!

As Ars Technica notes:

Indeed, in the wake of the blustery study—which took place in research facility bathrooms around UConn—”paper towel dispensers have recently been added to all 36 bathrooms in basic science research areas in the UConn School of Medicine surveyed in the current study,” the authors note.

The research findings largely square with other data [JAC: see below] showing that hot-air dryers and jet dryers can launch and disperse germs from hands into the air and onto surfaces—essentially setting off a very dirty bathroom bomb. But the new study clearly demonstrates that the less powerful hot-air dryers can also bathe hands with germs already swirling in the wash room.

I prefer to use paper towels: after all, who wants wet hands? The paper shown below, three years old, compares how the devices launch viruses into the air when your hands are already contaminated with viruses. That’s relevant because you could be making other people sick by using hot-air dryers, but not so much by using paper towels. And in bathrooms where other people are using hot-air dryers, you’re more likely to get hit by those microbes:

Here they used viruses instead of bacteria as an index of contamination, and did the measurements at different heights as well as different distances from the hand dryers. Here’s the relevant table. Look at the increased contamination of jet dryers compared to nozzle dryers, and how much less contamination of the atmosphere there is with paper towels.

The lesson: NEVER USE HOT-AIR HAND DRYERS IN PUBLIC BATHROOMS, and if other people are using them, stay away! Either use paper towels or the Coyne method of shaking and air-drying.  I surely will never use another hot-air dryer again. Also, as all experts say—and I follow their advice—wash your hands thoroughly: twice as long as it takes you to sing the first verse of “Happy Birthday”, which I always run through in my head while washing.

Now I know that paper towels may be ecologically wasteful (though I don’t know how that compares to the electricity consumed by dryers), but who wants to get sick?

Avoid the dryers. You will get fewer colds and flu, and you will thank me for it. Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus) says, “You’re welcome!”

129 thoughts on “Don’t use bathroom hot-air hand dryers!

  1. In addition to this advice, I recall a Ted Talk where the speaker mentioned that you could save a lot of paper if you shook your hands in the air to get the majority of the water off of your hands prior to using a paper towel.

    This is the kind of wise advice that your parents should be teaching their children.


    1. People tend to use far more paper towels than they think they need. Test this theory: get hands wet and and use about 4 x 3 (12 square in.) of paper towel and it can dry hands. This is a very tiny amount of paper towel.

    2. majority of the water off of your hands prior to using a paper towel.

      I can’t remember the last time I saw a toilet washroom that had paper towel dispensers, let alone ones that actually had towels in them.
      It takes far too long for cleaning staff to refill them, and they need to be checked too often. So cleaning companies don’t allow their staff to do it and don’t order the towels. They were replaced with air blowers that don’t actually need more than a cosmetic single wipe, and a tick in the box on the checklist.

        1. Thinks back … nope, still can’t remember the last time I saw a not-empty towel dispenser. But since I carry a roll of arse-wipe in my rucksack, I don’t spend any time looking for them.

  2. Totally agree. Use the towel to open the bathroom door on your way out too … then before the door shuts turn and shoot a three pointer into the wastebasket. Enjoy the applause.

    1. Yup, I do this, and I already assumed this was true about hand dryers years ago.

      Nobody has ever applauded me. I’m probably not as attractive as you are.

  3. Yikes! Not to mention the deafening roar of some of these things. Some exceed 80 decibels, and the small spaces with hard sound-reflecting surfaces make it much worse. You don’t even have to be near the dryer. The whole restroom is a deafening hazard zone with those things on.

      1. 🙂
        I only ever saw Motorhead at the Hammersmith Odeon. Ace of Spades tour as I recall. My hearing has yet to recover

        1. Things are as they should be. His Lemmyness would be glad to know he is the source of post-mortem hearing incapability.

  4. I don’t know where I learned that but it was a long time ago. I’ve never used those. Paper towels are the best option.

    1. Yes, I heard this a while ago too. And it made sense to me, since hot air (1) doesn’t kill germs and (2) germs get blown around by the air.

      This info just adds a (3) that this air has to come from somewhere (which I should have made the connection to a while ago).

  5. Avoid the dryers. You will get fewer colds and flu…

    Where’s the evidence? You’ll deposit fewer bacteria and virions onto your hands. So?

    1. Seriously? You don’t think there’s a correlation between fecal bacterial and viral loads on your hands and cold.

      Well, I can’t cite a study for you, but I am going by the best guess from the chain of evidence. I guess you don’t think we should wash our hands after using the toilet, either, right? “SO”?


      1. Seriously? I don’t know there’s a correlation at this level. As Mark Crislip is fond of pointing out, the planet is covered in a thin layer of feces. What they’ve shown in this study isn’t going to make me abandon an efficient drier.

      2. When I went to the doctor recently I noted that she had paper towels, not an air drier. Same with my optician and my dentist. I take that as evidence that people who know more about hygiene than I do think paper towels are better.

        The only places I see air dryers is in public toilets – and that’s more for the convenience of those who have to clean the toilets than dry their hands. Air dryers don’t need someone to empty the bins every hour.

  6. I`ve seen the Coyne method applied on the grand scale. I was in the changing room at the local hot spa when a naked man ran by waving his arms. A minute later he ran by the other way. The third time by he shouted “forgot my towel” as he passed.

    1. Sounds a fun place. What’s the address?
      Mixed? All Heinz 57 varieties, or Facebook’s 54 varieties?

        1. Allegedly – I haven’t logged in for several years, Facebook updated their gender options from “Male / Female” to a list of 54 options. Which I admit does interest me slightly, since 54 isn’t obviously a 2^n number, or a n-factorial number … so I’m slightly intrigued by how they got to 54, instead of 64, or 24, or something else.
          Maybe they took a number from Biblical Pyramidology (there is bound to be a journal on such, somewhere) and then hammered their imaginations to get a list that matched it?

  7. Hand dryers rank with their cousins, the leaf blowers, and car alarms as among the most obnoxious sounds encountered in the quotidian world.

    1. Yes, if the choice is between leaf blower and leaves, I’ll take the leaves. I hate those things and all the noise. Hand blower are no different. Public restrooms today should be automatic. Just stick your hands under the faucet and the water comes on. Soap, the same. And with paper towels. Should add auto opening door.

    2. Just today, I was driving my freshly washed car past someone using a leaf blower to blow dust off the curb into the roadway!

    3. Leaf blowers are infinitely more obnoxious.

      At least the noise of hand dryers is largely confined to the washroom. You don’t generally hear them outside that.

      Car alarms – yeah, but they don’t happen too often. And noisy cars / motorbikes may be obnoxious but they tend to remove themselves from the vicinity at speed.

      Leaf blowers, on the other hand, are as noisy as chainsaws, and more widespread. Chainsaws might be tolerated (just – I hate them!) as an occasional necessity. Leaf blowers have the potential to be ten times more prevalent. I would dearly love to see the nasty nuisances banned.

      (In fact, I’d like to see all gas-powered appliances – except motor mowers, which are lower-revving and less obnoxious – banned from built-up areas without a special permit from the Council, issued only in cases of demonstrated need. That would apply especially to leaf-blowers and weed-whackers (line trimmers). You can get electric chainsaws and weed-whackers – I’ve got one of each.)


  8. All well and good.

    But the only meaningful result (for purposes of making decisions) would come from a of the bacteria actually on your hands BEFORE and AFTER using the restroom, and using various washing/drying methods.

    Think about it: you are breathing that same air the entire time you are in the restroom. Most of the bacteria you are going to be exposed to are bacteria you are exposed to all the time.

    Is there really anything to be concerned about there?

    Will dryers vs paper towels vs whatever actually make any significant difference in health outcomes?

    I seriously doubt it for ordinary day-to-day life.

    1. What you write seems correct. The only flaw I can see is there’s larger numbers of particles in the air near to air dryers, but I don’t know if that substantially increases risk.

      Toilet hygiene is counter-intuitive in some respects e.g in tests… during toilet flushing C. diffcile in water droplets is spread throughout the air in the cubicle & beyond & presumably the same is true for many other microbes in toilet water. There are better ways to remove human waste from the toilet bowl that don’t turn the immediate environment into bath time! If we greatly reduce the particles numbers getting into the air, then the stirring effect of air dryers is probably irrelevant.

      1. When I’m at home, I keep the toilet seat lid down, and only lift it up to use the toilet, then replace the lid BEFORE I flush the toilet. Not everyone does that, so when I have guests, I make sure my toothbrush is put away in a drawer to avoid contamination.

        Also, I keep a HUGE stack of folded hand towels on the sink counter top, but no one seems to figure out on their own, those towels are meant to be used, I have to TELL them before they use the restroom. Otherwise, they will use my previously used, soggy towel. Yuck!

        I always carry a cloth handkerchief, and use that to dry my hands when I’m out.

        1. Reminds me of a line Dick Gregory used in his stand up many years ago: “Nobody would dream of eating in the bathroom, but that’s where we keep our toothbrushes.”

          1. I stopped keeping my toothbrush in the bathroom ages ago. I keep it, my floss, my toothpaste and the cup I use for rinsing in my bedroom and bring them to the bathroom as needed.

        2. I don’t understand people who don’t close the lid before flushing. You might as well pack an explosive canister with shit and set it off in your bathroom.

          And I can’t stand it when I go to someone’s house and all they have is a cotton towel hanging on the rack for people to use. I don’t want to use the towel you’ve been using for the past week, thank you.

          1. All you people seem to be assuming that the toilet is in the bathroom. Don’t you run to the luxury of having separate rooms for the toilet and bath?


      2. It think it comes down to the number of collisions of particles per second. Those blowers put out quite a volume per second.

        I would have thought 20 minutes of a regular fan might be in the same ballpark as 30 seconds of blow dryer.

        But perhaps the heat, if it does not kill bacteria, actually makes them more active just at the moment they bump into your skin.

        Still, overall, you are breathing that air, sitting on the toilet seat, touching handles, doors…

        Do the dryer really make any significant difference in what you are exposed to?

    2. I know in my heart that this is the logical perspective, but it all grosses me out so much that I try to never use public restrooms and, if absolutely necessary, make myself feel as not-disgusting as possible.

      1. I agree with your trepidation about public restrooms, though I have to say that when I’ve had to use them, the vast majority in NZ and Europe have been adequately clean and cause me no qualms. And I should add that, since I’m often barefoot, I am particularly sensitive about the condition of the floor. 😉

        (Sometimes one just has to think “I’ve got thick soles, what the hell” and tread carefully…)


    3. To be honest, I cannot figure out why people are allowed to pull their public clothes into places and smear shit on the fastenings, before leaving the stall for the washroom area.

  9. I’ve always loathed hand dryers for the evil they are. Deafening (I have sensitive ears/tinnitus) and inefficient. I always sigh when I see only a hand dryer and no paper towels.

    Even worse: those restaurants/public places that use that horrendously cheap toilet paper. That kind that is a combination of rough, yet so thin and see-through that it renders it almost useless, and never protects your hands. I see that stuff, and that business has earned by undying enmity for being such cheapskates.

    1. I agree. Plus the shiny tissue stuff, though I haven’t seen that for a while thankfully. What idiot ever dreamed up shiny toilet paper?

      1. Izal was the brand name in the UK.
        I had a friend who was doing a PhD in the Genetics department, handling a lot of biohazard stuff (cancers, with a transmissible virus, IIRC). She wondered about why the Department brought Izal too. So she did the experiments. It turns out that it is more effective at keeping faecal microbes off fingers, and finger microbes off perineums (perineaea?). Including particularly the microbes they were working with. After which she stopped complaining, but still hated the stuff.

          1. Horrible I agree. Effective at what it’s intended for though. Comfort wasn’t a design (or selection) criterion.

  10. I agree

    But I’ll still use them, depending.

    MMy two pieces of advice related to this

    1. Wash your nose out before bed/waking up/etc. as in really get in there and pick it out, blow, all that – right out into the sink. Water only – mucous membranes sensitive.

    2. Apply thick pet jelly, like Aquaphor/Vaseline directly up in the nostril. My theory which is mine : the layer of grease traps virulent particles. When coupled to (1) above, my theory predicts less likelihood of head colds.

    Thank you.

  11. The point is well-taken, but 18-60 colony forming units is unlikely to induce an infection, though there are of course some species and strains that have an ID50 in that low range:

    I’m a bit of a germphobe and prefer to use paper towels and to use a dry towel as a barrier between my flesh and the door handle. I won’t use a paper-wrapped straw if its paper sheath gets wet. Dry paper is a barrier; wet paper is a pathway.

  12. Old news ,Sheldon Lee Copper in an episode of TBBT told us this .

    I suppose you could wash your hands after drying them ,wait just found the fatal flaw in that idea .

  13. What about those infinite-circle cloth towels you used to see in bathrooms? I wonder where they lie on the spectrum.

    1. The main problem I have with those is they rarely get changed often enough. They always seem to have run out.

      I know someone who had a job changing them plus selling the service to businesses over 30 years ago. I remember him telling us then how bad hot air dryers were. It was one of the selling points for the towel service.

      The system I like best is where they provide individual hand towels which you throw in a laundry basket after use.

      1. which you throw in a laundry basket after use.

        I hope you’re talking about fabric towels, for wash and re-use?
        Outside hotel rooms, I’ve never seen that. Industrial accommodation too, of course.

        1. Yeah, fabric towels for wash and reuse after washing. I haven’t come across it often. A couple of high end cafes, a high end restaurant, and my hairdresser. Some arrange the towels rolled up and placed so the colours make geometric shapes and designs. They even have special gaps cut into the walls to hold the towels. It’s an idea I’ve decided I want to copy if I ever get to build my own home.

          1. Very posh. Assuming that the premises already has a service wash contract, probably more expensive in staff setting out time, but if work tends to come in waves through opening hours …

            1. It does in restaurants of course, which is where I’ve mostly seen it. My hairdresser is small, and the bathroom doesn’t get used much. In fact rarely by clients. I travel two hours to get there though. I stuck with her after shifting to a different town.

    1. I keep Purell in my handbag and the car. I wash and dry my hands thoroughly using whatever method is available, but often Purell them after leaving the bathroom such as if I have to touch the door handle and before eating

    2. When you come back home with them, do you put them in your own non-recyclable waste disposal, or do you leave it for the business which owns the toilets to deal with?
      You know that antibacterial wipes (“wet wipes” and other trade marks) are one of the rapidly rising problems of non-biodegradable waste clogging up sewers, sewage plants, and landfills while dumping more anti-bacterials at sub-effective doses into the environment and evolving resistance into wild-type bacteria?
      “Stumpy”, my sewage-diving troglodyte associate from the Plains of Englandshire thanks you for making it harder for him to retire.

      1. Of course I dispose responsibly. And my use or non-use will have no meaningful impact on the evolving resistance of bacteria. That problem, if it is real, would need to be addressed by a world-wide ban.

      2. I was going to raise that too.

        Particularly since some irresponsible marketroids advertise them as “flushable”, for which they should be shot or, better, thrown into a sewage pumping station wet well and not allowed out until they have retrieved every “wet wipe” floating around in the mess.


        1. I refer the honourable gentleman to my previous comments about “Stumpy” the sewage diver.

  14. I’ve been having this argument with my manager for six months.

    Our office relocated to a building with sir dryers last year. I was told we weren’t allowed to have paper towels because our manager says we don’t need them. Just that: she thinks we don’t need them so we can’t have them.

    My big problem isn’t just that dryers are less heigeinic: it’s that I can’t wash my face. I have Aspergers and dust or sweat drives me fucking nuts. I explained this to my manager and she said I’d need a referral to occupational health and they’d have to support my need.

    After going through the whole ‘air dryers are unheigeinic’ argument, citing academic papers on the subject, and explaining patiently that I can’t dry my face under an air drier in any case I reluctantly asked for an OHS referral.

    At which some ignorant prick at OHS role my manager Aspergers is a ‘learning difficulty’ which presents no sensory processing issues at all so I am not entitled to wash my face.

    1. Was the OHS referral to ATOS Healthcare, Maximus or some other useless, money grubbing, target-driven bunch of wasters?

      Use the independent tribunal process [genuinely independent judge, doc & lay person] – it’s your right & the tribunal people are doing their best to overturn ATOS etc. decisions wherever possible – the Tribunal people I know have a visceral ‘distaste’ for the shenanigans of these inhuman cowboys,

      1. ATOS – yeah, we dealt with cases with them at the trade union. Oddly, union activists would always get medical-ed by the same ATOS office, even if everyone else in the company went to their own choice of local doctor. One lad lost over £20,000 of work that way. They hit me too, in the run up to my redundancy.

      2. I’ve warned them of the likelihood of me having a meltdown when summer comes – at the moment the office is freezing so sweat isn’t an issue. If that happens I’ll be absenting myself from the office.

        My manager has since attended an autism awareness seminar that highlighted sensory issues – I know the content because I wrote part of it! – but refuses to budge.

    2. Is there a way you could bring a small damp washcloth and a small towel in a little plastic bag that you can put in your pocket? Or might you be allowed to have a washcloth and towel in your desk drawer?

      I don’t know what on earth is wrong with some people who aren’t willing to accommodate. I don’t see that you’re asking for something out of line or unreasonable.

      1. I don’t know what on earth is wrong with some people who aren’t willing to accommodate.

        It’s a dominance thing. By challenging their decision, you’ve made it a power struggle.

      2. It’s not just myself though.

        A colleague has to use eye drops because of dry eyes for instance so also has to be able to dry his face.

        In any event, we are, as far as I know, the only office in my department without paper towels. They are standard everywhere else.

        I wasn’t informed of the change in my meeting before we moved; if I had I would have requested a move to a different office.

        We have three disabled toilets for people with physical toilets. If I required special facilities for washing because of some religious nonsense I’d be given them. If I was transgender they’d probably call a press conference to publicise how progressive they are by building me a lady urinal. But wanting to claw my face off because I feel my flesh crawling apparently isn’t an issue.

    3. As well as what Michael Fisher said, I think you deserve some kindof apology from your manager for being so dismissive of your issue.

  15. I’m dubious of this since, when you’re in the bathroom you breathe. So worrying about getting the bugs that you’re taking into you mouth and lungs onto your hands because they could end up in your mouth … is closing the barn door after the horse has bolted

  16. I think this is too strong a conclusion. I would like to see the epidemiological connection between deposited CFU’s and actual infection before damning hand dryers. A few 10’s of CFU’s may sound like a lot, but in fact may be insignificant. Your scalp has about a million CFU per sq cm, and your hands between a hundred thousand and several million per sq cm. These are predominantly “good” bacteria that do a great job preventing invaders, such as those that may be blown from hand dryers, from taking hold. Other studies have shown that there are typically thousands of times more microbes per sq cm on many surfaces in the bathroom or kitchen. (I have no feel for virus prevalence or infection threat, though…)

    BTW, if you’re concerned about picking up bacteria, in most kitchens it’s better to eat food that’s been dropped on the floor than placed on a random spot on the counter.

  17. Sing Happy Birthday twice? I learned that we should do that from my daughter.

    I kept the Happy Birthday melody but use my own words:

    There’s viruses on you.
    Bacteria too,
    and all sorts of nasty
    icky foul-smelling goo!

    1. That’s great! Did you teach your version to your kiddo too? [or maybe your daughter was adult at the time of the convo]

      1. Oh yes, I shared my version with my daughter. She was working at a facility that makes the matrices, uh, matrix plural, that drugs are put in. Sanitation and being germ-free was top priority. Serious cleanliness and having to wear these suits that keep people from contaminating the product, oh yeah, and heavy-duty hand cleansing that began with washing, with Happy Birthday sung three times.

        I need to come up with two more verses.

        1. Did you flush that loo?
          There’s microbes on you
          From head top to shoe
          There’s streph throat & flu

          From good friends and true,
          and man friend doggy do,
          Luck will not help you,
          Avoiding their poo!

          Be one of the few
          Has soap there on view
          A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
          We all fall down

          [To Ring a Ring o’ Roses I apologise!]

          1. Thanks, Michael! Coming up with funny verses is better than just recycling Happy Birthday which really is better used at a birthday party.

  18. I’m a bit skeptic (not septic though):
    1 – Closing the tap is not taken into account. I guess that might transfer a lot more bugs than any air dryer. Most hygienic there would probably be those taps that stop automatically, a tap with a sensor Short of that a paper towel could be used, but then the tap has been running needlessly for some time, something close to a crime in the Western parts of the RSA.
    2 – The exit door handle. As mentioned a possibly very dirty contaminant.
    3 – You can clean your hand as much as you want, but then you get this call on your cell-phone. How clean is that one?
    4 – In fact one should wash one’s hands before going to the ‘bathroom’: you do not want to expose your clean (I should hope) genitals to your contaminated hands, no?
    5 – I would only accept as useful those studies that culture actual smears from hands/fingers, not just from (thin) air, and of course before going, and after points 1 to 3.
    All that being said, I doubt that hands are instrumental in spreading respiratory tract infections such as flu, a red herring, IMMO. I think the aerosol (resulting from coughing) is much more of a risk (for TB that has been well established).
    Note, if there are paper towels I always use those rather than ‘air drying’ or blowers.
    The few studies done (with actual hand smears) point to air drying (without blowers) being nearly as bad as not washing at all, but drying with a clean paper towel reduces contamination. (not taking 1 to 3 into account).
    A last point, your toilet seat is probably way ‘cleaner’ than your kitchen work top, not to mention your kitchen rag.

    1. In fact, washing your hands frequently and not touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands is one of the most effective ways of avoiding the flu.

      1. That is what I dispute, you possibly may get it via hands, but washing your hands regularly will not necessarily prevent it. And for hand washing to have any effect you should wash your hands after shaking someone’s hands, not after peeing.
        (Don’t get me wrong, I consider Ignatz Semmelweiss an unsung hero).
        There is a new study that indicates that aerosols produced by coughing are not even needed: just breathing is sufficient to spread flu
        That raises the question whether these handdryers should be used at all, they might put innocent bystanders in danger!

  19. I was just reminiscing about the old hand dryers that seemed to disappear in the 1970s that were continuous rolls of cotton towel that one would pull down and the dirty towel would get rolled back up into the machine. Remember those? Never was a fan of those or the Hot air dryers. I have been using Jerry’s method for a long time.

  20. Probably best to avoid the dryers altogether, but it would seem higher risk in places that don’t clean their restrooms.
    In a certain town in the Bay Area there is a Federal Express right next to a Starbucks and the FedEx bathroom is often filthy, whereas the *$ bathroom is always immaculate and spotless.
    Other public bathrooms are somewhere between these two. After reading this, I might risk the hand dryer at *$, but never the one at FedEx.

  21. It’s ironic that sports bars and barbecue restaurants that have rolls of paper towels on their tables have those machines in their restrooms. The solution, of course, is to bring some paper towels with you into the restroom.

    Whether there’s a bacteria issue or not, I refuse to stick my hands into a machine that says “blade.”

    1. ‘a machine that says “blade.”’

      Yeah, that struck me as a good scenario for a low-budget horror movie, first time I saw one.


  22. Is there any data demonstrating an actual increased transmission or causation of disease associated with these dryers? After all, bacteria and spores are entirely ubiquitous, so their presence doesn’t NECESSARILY indicate a health hazard.

  23. Last I remember with air driers was needing to use them for a long time to get the hands dry. Guess I need to start changing my behaviour…

    1. There’s two sorts, the older gentle-warm-breeze ones and the modern high-velocity-blast ones – which are much quicker.


  24. You wash your hands, dry them with a paper towel, open the restroom door with the paper towel and then throw it away in some wastebasket, and yay, you avoided germs.

    Then you go to the water fountain and turn it on by switching it on where countless people who never bothered washing their hands have already touched it. Same with doors in the building.

    Oh, one might avoid touching germy surfaces (water fountains might be automatic or otherwise not require hand touching), but it’s not clear just how well one can really avoid the bacteria of other people. I tend to avoid touching doors and fountains with my hands–foot, arm, whatever–but can’t always.

    That said, I do try to preserve hand cleanliness, even though I have my doubts about how possible it really is. And I’ve long disliked the hand blow driers for exactly the reasons given in the post (no, I don’t know if it’s really dangerous, but gross…), yet I’ve really not seen them in the US much for at least a decade. It may differ by region, of course.

    Glen Davidson

    1. That’s one reason to install a ‘toilet friend’. 😆
      Note, I’ve heard there are some studies showing that kitchen surfaces are way more contaminated than your toilet seat

  25. I’m more concerned that the hand driers where you stick your hands down into a “blade” of air will be mistaken for urinals and wind up spraying a fine mist of urine throughout he bathroom! 🙂

    1. I wonder how long it will take for some kinky guy to figure that the air blast provides a unique sensation for ones, errm, dangly bits…



      1. The Uconn student’s ‘affair’ with a Xlerator hand drying machine must have escaped your attention.

  26. So you follow all the precautions coming out of the bathroom sterile only to sit down and have your dinner served by staffs who don’t necessarily share your concerns.

  27. I try to remember to pack baby wipes in my laptop bag and use them instead of washing my hands in public toilets.

    Have no idea if it works.

    Never could understand why hand washing after urination made sense.

    1. Hmm, I was thinking the same thing.

      As I understand it, urine contains very few bacteria (and presumably any in it are ones you’ve already got anyway).

      So if you can make it into the restroom, point and shoot, and make your escape without touching any surfaces whatever, that would seem to be the safest option of all.

      (I could be quite wrong of course, but I can’t see where.)


      1. Fresh urine is sterile, unless you have a urinary tract infection. But it ain’t sterile for long.

        In any case, I don’t think urine is the problem. At least not the only one. Feces and STDs and who knows what. The other exit is right next door. And I’m not sure there is a better breeding environment than tween the legs. If you’ve just recently bathed and put on clean clothes you’re probably fine. If you’ve been busy for hours in the heat of the day or simply not bathed for a couple of days I sure as heck don’t want to touch anything you have after you’ve urinated and not washed your hands.

  28. When we have our bio students grow cultures by swabbing common areas, the best results come from the telephone (what the hell is that?) and the keyboard. Yes, some students swab toilet seats!

    1. As others have also mentioned, I never touch the door handle in a public bathroom. It’s pretty easy to avoid.

  29. Been following the comments – couple things:

    • I think there’s way too much attention to the obvious : what your hands are in contact with, compared to attention to the less obvious : dust, dust mites, other creepy crawlies in dust, and the excrement of those creepy crawlies that I guess (not being a creepy crawly expert) have the bacteria, viruses, yeast, other things that make humans miserable. The important relevant human body location is not hands but the sinus/nostril where everything sits and incubates for hours and hours, especially while sleeping unless really cleaned out of there (see my other comment up above).

    “bacteria are floating around in the air”

    I’d finesse this to infectious particles getting kicked up by the high winds from anywhere, and it’s relevant to what I wrote above because they get up in the sinus.

    The mouth/throat are yet slightly different for cleaning and now I must stop this typing is stalling for some reason…

    1. Oh and I wonder if bugs get in these filters – recall the Legionnaires problem – AC and birds, …

  30. Well, before any issue about hygiene I’ve always seen hand driers has yet another inventive (=stupid) way of wasting energy – shake the hands, dry then in your clothes, whatever. It’s just water. And most hand driers also make a ridiculous amount of noise.

  31. I solved this problem years ago by stuffing my pockets with disposable gloves before leaving home. I don a glove whenever I have to open a door, use a grocery cart, sign with an electronic pen or use public restrooms. They’re easily portable and I buy them by the case from eBay or Amazon. The case will last over a year. When I am done I remove them inside out and will either reuse them (depending on the task they were used for) or toss them.

  32. proud to report:

    just used a restroom that had only electric bio-hazard dryers. opted to

    [1] shake loose water off into sink
    [2] dry under armpits
    * was wearing thick sweatshirt

    … Great Success!
    [>> Borat gif here <<]

    … other completely unrelated random bits:
    * had a dream I was interviewing for a job at the FFRF
    * in real life, saw a FFRF newsletter in the *public library* – this really made me smile (on the inside)….

    … or, perhaps they are completely related and non-random?…

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