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Are They Sanitary? The Debate about Restroom Hand Dryers

Pro Clean

In recent years, there have been several debates concerning bathroom cleanliness. Some of the concerns are about what should be considered the preferred or best method of cleaning one’s hands while using a public restroom — such as the argument about the effectiveness of cold versus hot water when washing hands. Some arguments revolve around the concerns of using regular nonantibacterial soap versus antibacterial handwash. However, another frequent concern is about the risk of potential contamination from restroom hand dryers.

But, are hand dryers sanitary? Determining whether a hand dryer does, in fact, spread pathogens is a highly disputed area of concern for scientists. One study from the Mayo Clinic from 2000 showed “no statistically significant differences” between the results from each of four tested drying methods, which included forced air from a hand-activated hand dryer. Another study, however, shows that significant amounts of bacterial spores were found on testing plates that were exposed to air blasting from restroom hand dryers.

When you manage or own a facility, it’s critical to provide a clean and healthy environment for the people who work or operate within your space. Here are a few things to know about the debate about cleanliness and hand dryers for restrooms.

What Causes Bathrooms and Hand Dryers to Be Unsanitary

In most public or office restrooms, the toilets are lidless. When someone flushes a toilet, fecal particles are launched several feet into the air in an aerosolized form known as a “toilet plume.” This contaminated cloud spreads up and outward, eventually settling with bacteria landing on any nearby surfaces, including on people, walls, floors, faucets, handles, sinks, and countertops. Some plumes are reported to reach as high as 15 feet, according to New York University microbiologist Philip Tierno.

Another area that these contaminants can land is on and in hand dryers for restrooms. When someone activates a hand dryer, the machines draw in ambient air from the restroom, which is frequently filled with those aerosolized fecal particles and other contaminants. It then blows that contaminated air over the hands of the person who is using it to dry them.

Best Practices and Hand Washing Steps for Clean Hands

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most effective way to clean your hands is to use soap and water. It involves lathering your hands by rubbing them together vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Proper hand washing steps include rubbing between your fingers, on the back of your hands, and under your nails as well (not just rubbing your palms together). When soap and water are unavailable, it’s best to use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.

By washing your hands and encouraging your employees and tenants to do the same, it helps to create a cleaner environment by reducing the spread of germs, bacteria, and diseases on commonly shared surfaces such as door handles, countertops, hand-activated hand dryers, and elevator buttons. When proper hand washing steps are followed, it means that germs, bacteria, and other contaminants won’t be blowing off your hand and onto other surfaces

How to Make Your Facility’s Restrooms More Sanitary

The truth of the matter is that bacteria, germs, and other contaminants exist in every restroom. Some of the things that help include providing proper sanitation practices and regular upkeep. This includes using newer, automatic hand dryers that reduce cross-contamination — particularly those that are equipped with antimicrobial technology and HEPA filtration systems.

As an owner or manager of a facility, it’s essential that you provide a clean working environment for your tenants and employees. One of the ways to do this is to partner with a reputable green cleaning company that cleans to protect the health of the people in your building. Some of the best practices of cleaning a restroom for health include disinfecting the floors, walls, and restroom hand dryers.

At Pro Clean, our cleaning experts are trained and certified in the industry standard cleaning practices outlined by ManageMen’s Operating System 1 (OS1) certificate program. Our Restroom Specialists are trained and must pass an exam before they are qualified to clean a restroom for our clients.

To learn more about how green cleaning can help you clean to improve health, be sure to speak with our team of experts now.