Link Between Hand Dryers and Bacteria Spread
A recent Facebook post of a bacteria-ridden petri dish went viral — being shared more than 570,000 times — when viewers realized its contents were collected from a restroom hand dryer. Reportedly, the open plate was placed in an enclosed hand dryer of a public restroom for three minutes and the results were photographed for everyone to see.
Little in terms of details was revealed about the findings, which sparked additional hand dryer studies from reliable sources.
Forbes recently reported on such a study, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology and conducted by officials at the University of Connecticut Health and Quinnipiac University. The team brought bacteria culture plates into 36 men’s and women’s restrooms in an academic health center and exposed them to hot air driers for 30 seconds.
Following the exposure to the dryers, researchers found an average of 18 to 60 colonies of bacteria on each plate. This is compared to the two-minute tests done in restrooms where no air dryers were running and where an average of 1 or less colonies were found on each plate.
Reports indicate that installing HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters into the dryers did help reduce the amount of bacteria being spread. Researchers found four-times less bacteria in the use of these dryers.
According to Forbes, the results from this study mirror those done by other researchers recently. A study published in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences found an array of bacteria from 15 different air dryers.
And a separate study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection didn’t just look at hot/warm air dryers, but compared them with jet air dryers and paper towels. When the jet dryer was used, 4.5-times more bacteria was spewed into the air than when a warm air dryer was used, and 27-times more bacteria was spewed than when paper towels were used.
Survey Shows Americans Would Pay For A Clean Restroom
Although pay toilets aren’t common in the United States, a majority (56 percent) of Americans say they’d consider paying as long as they were guaranteed a clean, well-stocked public restroom, according to a survey by Bradley Corporation.
Almost half of the survey respondents would be OK paying a quarter, with about a third of the group willing to pay 50 cents. However, a third of respondents from the Midwest said they would not pay to use a premium public toilet.
Dirty restrooms are a common problem. According to the survey, 70 percent of Americans say they’ve had a particularly unpleasant experience in a public restroom due to the condition of the facilities. In fact, 42 percent report having a bad experience within just the past two months. Clogged or unflushed toilets; toilet paper dispensers that are jammed or empty; and partition doors that don’t latch are the biggest irritants.
When asked what improvements they’d like to see, the top requests were: keep restrooms cleaner and ensure they’re adequately stocked with toilet paper, paper towels and soap.
Bad restrooms can be bad for business. More than half of Americans say they’d think twice about returning to a location after experiencing an unclean or unpleasant restroom.
“Our survey found that a bad restroom speaks volumes to customers — 47 percent say an unclean restroom shows the company doesn’t care about its customers and 46 percent feel it’s a sign of poor management,” says Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development for Bradley Corp. “On the flip side, we found that almost half of Americans will ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ spend more money at a business that has clean, well-maintained restrooms.”
Survey Addresses Paper Towels Vs. Hand Drying Debate
To identify which hand drying method is preferred in the U.S., Cintas Corporation commissioned a survey conducted online by Harris Poll, May 19-23, among 2,048 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The study found that the majority of American’s (69 percent) prefer to use paper towels over air dryers when drying their hands in public restrooms.
“Hand drying plays an important role in effective hand hygiene,” said John Engel, Director of Marketing, Cintas. “Studies show that germs can be more easily transferred to and from wet hands, which is why drying hands after washing them is essential to staving off bacteria and limiting the spread of infection.”
Of those that chose paper towels as their preferred method to dry their hands in a public restroom, the top five reasons include:
• Paper towels dry hands better – 70 percent
• Paper towels dry hands faster – 69 percent
• Paper towels provide something to open the restroom door with – 52 percent
• Air dryers blow bacteria (e.g., on hands, in the air) – 24 percent
• Air dryers are too loud – 22 percent
“What this data tells us is that the majority of Americans want a quick, thorough and hygienic public restroom experience,” added Engel. “While paper towels reduce the number of bacteria on hands, air dryers increase them, leading to further contamination of not only clean hands, but other restroom users up to six feet away[i]. This makes paper towels a ‘no brainer’ choice for hand drying.”
Paper towels are not only more hygienic, but they are also better for the health of restroom users’ ears. In fact, jet hand dryers have the same impact on ears as a close-range pneumatic drill, and are especially dangerous for children’s ears as air dryers are typically positioned at the same height as a child’s head [ii].
THE 2009 SURVEY OF CLEANING INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS INDICATES A HIGH PRIORITY GIVEN TO RESTROOMS AND STAFFING
Restrooms Rated #1 Challenge
In order, what areas within the facility are the most challenging to keep clean?
- Common touch-points
- Hard floors (including wood, tile and marble)
- Small rooms/areas with obstacles
- Large or open rooms/areas
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