Bad News About Those Fancy 'Jet Air' Hand Dryers

Airborne germ counts were 27 times higher around jet air dryers.

19/04/2016 6:21 AM AEST | Updated 19/04/2016 6:22 AM AEST

While you thought you were being hygienic (not to mention environmentally friendly) by eschewing paper towels in favor of modern public bathrooms' luxe hand dryers, this could actually be spreading more germs, according to new research.

In a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, researchers revealed that Dyson Airblades -- the touch-free hand dryers that blast hot air around your digits -- spread 60 times more germs than regular hand dryers (those dinky ones that never seem to fully dry) and 1,300 times more germs than paper towels.

To figure this out, researchers had participants dip their gloved hands into a solution of a harmless virus called MS2. After a quick shake, participants dried their hands in one of three ways: in the jet dryer, under a conventional dryer or on a sheet of paper towels. 

The researchers then collected samples from the air and petri dishes placed on surfaces at different distances from the drying methods before the experiment began. After analysis of the air and surfaces, they found that the jet air dryer spread more viruses farther distances than the other two methods. The Dyson dryer's 430/mph air blasts pushed the viruses up to 9 feet across the bathroom, compared to the standard dryers, which dispersed them less than 3 feet. The paper towels spread the viruses a mere 10 inches. 

Jet air dryers have come under scrutiny before. A study conducted in 2014 found similar results: "Airborne germ counts were 27 times higher around jet air dryers in comparison with the air around paper towel dispensers," the Telegraph reported. 

Despite the ick-factor, it's worth noting that the experiment tested a harmless virus, not bacteria, which is what we should be concerned about in places like the bathroom. As Popular Science pointed out, the study didn't test how drying methods distributed bacteria, which are larger and also cause disease. 

Additionally, Dyson spokespeople explained that the study participants’ hands were covered with more viruses than they would be in a non-experiment scenario, and say that paper towels are germ-ridden from previous users, even if they have fewer airborne germs.

"[The research] has been conducted under artificial conditions, using unrealistically high levels of virus contamination on unwashed, gloved hands," they said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post

At the end of the day, you can choose to be the kind of person who opens door knobs with a tissue and carries liters of hand sanitizer at all time, or you can dry your hands on whatever the bathroom supplies, and dare germs to bring it on. In all seriousness, unless you have a medical reason for exercising extra caution around germs, this probably won't affect your daily life too much. 

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