Technology and toilets – not an ideal mix?

I was rather taken aback by this report.

In 2014 a … study by researchers from the University of Leeds found that airborne germ counts were 27 times higher around jet air dryers [in restrooms] in comparison with the air around paper towel dispensers.

Research lead Professor Mark Wilcox said: “Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it. You may also be splattered with bugs from other people’s hands.

“These findings are important for understanding the ways in which bacteria spread, with the potential to transmit illness and disease.”

There’s more at the link.

It’s a yucky thought, particularly for those of us who travel by road and have to use gas-station and rest-stop restrooms, which are usually equipped with several hot-air hand-dryers.  Looks like we may unknowingly be stepping into a highly contaminated atmosphere.

Food for thought . . .



  1. This is not news to me. Read about this, and also that they are energy wasters compared to paper towels, years ago. But nearly all branches of the media have been running stories about any paper goods being evil for so long that most people are emotionally geared to favor any option other than a paper product. Save the trees!

    Recycling paper is worse for the environment than making new paper. Most of the paper and forest product companies have entire forests of trees that are grown just to make paper products, and many of those trees are good for little else, being genetically engineered (the old, slow way – by breeding for the traits desired) to grow fast and break down easily in the paper-making process.

    OTOH, manufacturers of those damn hand-dryer machines have a great marketing pitch, and that is the market at work, too.

  2. Eh. It's just so that they don't have to clean the bathroom as often. Light grime is rather unremarkable, but if they don't take someone off the register to do a quick walk-through to empty the trash (composed hopefully mostly of paper towels) it gets noticed pretty quickly. Sure, it's not as hygienic, but who would think back to a public restroom as the reason they got a cold?

  3. I never have liked those dryers – most of them do work a darn, and the ones that do work dry out hands bad in dry or cold weather.
    it is yet again that the 'environmentally friendly' option isn't – like the way that reusable shopping bags are similarly unhygienic and don't last long enough to pay off their higher expense compared to disposable bags.

  4. Jonathan,

    having to use your own shopping bag is killing people here in the US. Mostly due to us not having the culture that they have in the EU. Reusing bags has a history of contaminating the food you are transporting home, because we don't think they need to be washed every time they are used. Researchers estimated this kills about 5 people a year in San Francisco alone.
    NONE of those idiot politicians who rammed these "feel good" laws down our throat bothered to do any checking of the facts. There is NOTHING good from this.

  5. One of the problems with rest rooms is that there is no consistent testing of toilets to see if a design distributes fecal bacteria into the air when flushed. Some do, some don't, but it's not a regulatory area, so the makers don't have to care, if they don't want to.

  6. I like the Dyson unit. Seems to dry faster.

    What I despise are the Xlerator brand dryers that sound like a small jet engine when they run. I've walked away from those things with a ringing in my ears.

    According to a piece in Noise and Health, those Xlerators came hit 88dB, which is way too loud for me.

  7. It is always highly amusing for the rest of the world how deep-rooted the typical american "germophobia" still is. No insult intended. I also see the engrained angst most Germans have when it comes to chemical or electronical "dangers".
    However, please feel free to ask any trustworthy biologist which one is more dangerous to your health: the public restroom, an ATM or your own kitchen sink. Caution, spoilers: it's NOT the toilet 🙂

  8. Sheldon Cooper FTW:
    "Hot air blowers are incubators and spewers of bacteria and pestilence. Frankly it would be more hygienic if they just had a plague infested gibbon sneeze my hands dry."

    The episode is over 5 years old, so even then it was wellknown enough for the writers to have Sheldon rant about it. 🙂

  9. I carry a tiny plastic bottle filled with anti-bacterial hand gel with me all the time. Just two drops is enough to disinfect both hands.

  10. Mythbusters did an episode on handwashing/drying and showed just how bad the dryers are even when used right…

    Paper towels FTW!

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