HEALTH

These Hand Dryers Spray Poop All Over Your Body

Conflicting studies paint a complex picture of how hand drying tech, from Dyson Airblades to paper towels, spread disease

HEALTH
(Dreamstime)
Apr 15, 2016 at 2:55 PM ET

Bathrooms are gross so, before you leave, you wash your hands like any decent person who knows he or she is being watched. But you’re too smart to dry your sterile fingertips on ratty paper towels, veritable reservoirs of infectious disease, so you search out a hand dryer. If you’re lucky, perhaps you even chance upon Dyson Airblades, allegedly the most hygienic hand dryers in existence.

Then, you gleefully fling germs 10 feet across the room at 420 miles per hour.

That’s according to a new study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, which concluded that Dyson Airblades have the potential to spread 1,300 times more germs than paper towels. For the study, researchers dipped their hands into a harmless viral solution and then attempted to dry their digits with Dyson Airblades, standard dryers and paper towels. After collecting virus samples that were flung into the surrounding areas, they concluded that Airblades shot the virus 10 feet away, while standard dryers infected only a two-foot radius and hand towels, predictably, did not spread germs very far at all.

Obviously, the major limitation of this study is that paper towels shouldn’t fling viruses, because that’s not how paper even works. But that observation is only the tip of the germ-infested iceberg. Because, as the Guardian reports, this study is but the latest development in a decades-long scientific brawl between hand dryer advocates and paper towel enthusiasts. Each side claims that its product is superior, safer and more convenient—and each side loves to tout (and occasionally pay for) studies that support its bottomline.

In fairness, paper towel fanboys probably started it when the German Pulp and Paper Association commissioned a 2005 study that showed paper towels reduced the amount of bacteria on the skin by 24 percent, while standard air dryers increased the bacterial load by 117 percent. In 2011, however, the hand dryer camp declared its own victory after a Canadian study confirmed that paper towels harbor dangerous germs, and that air always beats paper.

But what should you do if, at this very moment, your hands are dripping wet? Unfortunately, science does not yet have any great options for you. If you fancy yourself a martyr, we suppose you could take one for the team and use a paper towel, which possibly harbors dangerous germs. You may drown in bacteria but, as long as you swear off handshakes and invest in fist-bumps, you should be able to keep your bugs to yourself.

If, however, you harbor a misanthropic streak—that is, if you care nothing for society and fancy yourself a sick, soggy-handed Typhoid Mary—try Dyson Airblades. And prepare to fling your viruses far and wide.