For the University of Westminster, London, findings on hot air dryers, click here.
Infection Control, Cost and Use Issues
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There are significant problems to consider with hot air dryer use, including the most advanced (and most expensive) models. Because of the costs and infection control issues associated, hot air blowers are generally not found in schools, office settings or factories.
One of the main incentives put forward for utilizing hot air dryers is to reduce costs. Because they do not create a preferred restroom use environment, this is generally their main emphasized advantage. Restroom users in the United States, however, generally reject this method of drying. The theoretical savings advantage may be a false economy in that the time required for drying when electrical consumption is considered, particularly on high-temp high-volume models, has a considerable offset against the reported savings. The up-front costs of electrical work and installation labor are often cost-prohibitive. The electrical work alone can be an extensive undertaking requiring re-running electrical systems and re-constructing walls. The environmental footprint of energy required is also a consideration.
Probably the most serious drawbacks to hot air blowers, however, come from an infection control standpoint. Studies show they leave hands significantly wet after the stated drying times. They have been shown to result in a 438% increase in the transfer of bacteria and a 255% increase in the general bacterial counts left on hands. (See study referenced above.)
Another significant concept issue is the fact that not only do some restroom users omit washing when hot air dryers are utilized, because they are a non-preferred method, but those who do often flip water off their hands in preparation to dry. This creates slip hazards, increased cleaning demands (and expense) and distributes pathogens and dirt onto walls and floors, and often onto and into the dryers themselves. Even the drying process distributes moisture onto walls and floors as it is blown off rather than removed and properly disposed of as with paper toweling.
Dryer stated drying times are about twice the time of towels. However, as this study shows, hands are not very dry after that timeframe. Here is a table of key factors found by a comprehensive study done by the University of Westminster, School of Biosciences, London.
Paper Towels are a Best Practice
for Reducing Absenteeism and Infection Risk
Single-use paper towels, are the clear Best Practice for hand drying in the fast paced professional food handling environment as well as schools, businesses, factories and office buildings. They are both effective and fast, the two critical elements of choice.
Electric hand dryers have no place in food areas, mainly because they are neither effective nor fast, even highly-touted "fast" models that blast water (and microbes) off hands in all directions. Most users walk away with wet hands and wet hands transfer bacteria 500 times more readily than dry hands. Others wipe them dry on aprons and other soiled surfaces. This can lead to reactivating dormant bacteria and re-igniting a chain of cross-contamination. Pathogens thrive in wet, warm conditions. Wet hands are also a source of accidental knife injuries and increase the dangers of dropping glassware and hot food. In non-food areas, hot air dryers create slip-fall hazards and make walls and floors filthy, leaving germs and odors on walls and floors, the antithesis of hygienic standards.
Paper Towels offer a measurable advantage in hand washing effectiveness
According to the study "Hand Washing Facts to Know: Paper Towels vs. Hot Air Dryers," using paper towels after washing helps remove bacteria from hands and reduces general bacterial counts by an average of 58 percent, whereas hot air dryers not only increase the bacterial count on the hands (up to 438 percent with some bacteria), but can also blow out bacteria from inside the dryer.
Paper towels help brush off and remove germs loosened by washing.
Electric dryers take more time than using a paper towel. The average time to achieve 95 percent dryness is 12 seconds with a paper towel versus 43 seconds with a hot air dryer. Few people use hot air dryers long enough to ensure more than 55 to 65 percent dryness.
However, all paper towels are not the same. Highly absorbent task-textured paper towels are born from paper mills that have access to high absorbency, long-fiber, high-bulk pulps. Paper mills with specialized equipment that can process, form, dry and compress these pulps into toweling that is both highly absorbent and has excellent wet strength.
A properly engineered process yields a towel that is pleasant to use, dries hands quickly and extends cleaning effectiveness
Finally, selecting the proper towel dispenser is very important. Hands-free towel dispensing prevents cross-contamination by eliminating the often germ laden handles and levers. Users touch only the towels they need for hand drying while the supply is kept clean, dry, and sanitary inside the dispenser. Cranks, levers, dials, buttons are all concentrated sources for cross-contamination. Don't defeat the good work done in washing by immediate recontamination. Trash containers mounted near the exit door allow users to open with a towel and properly deposit before leaving. Where no room exists for such a can inside the restroom, mounting just outside accomlishes nearly the same thing. Users see the container upon entry and use it upon exit.