The Story of the Hand Dryer and the Petri Dish

The electric hand dryer was introduced decades ago as a way to save money and prevent deforestation. Not only has this venerated bathroom invention not lived up to its original hype, but it might also be contributing to a variety of health problems. As evidenced by an impromptu science experiment conducted by a woman from Carlsbad, California, what comes out of those electric hand dryers is not good.

We have always maintained that paper is better in a public restroom. Now there is scientific evidence to prove as much. We will get to that evidence in a minute, but first let us talk about the California woman. Mom Nicole Ward wanted to know just what was blowing onto her hands, so she held a petri dish under a hand dryer for three minutes. Then she closed it up and let it sit for forty-eight hours.

To her horror, all sorts of nasties incubated and grew inside the petri dish. She was so surprised that she posted a picture of the bacterial cornucopia on social media. The picture went viral.

Petri Dish

Facebook / Nichole Ward

The Numbers Are Disgusting

Researchers from the University of Leeds (West Yorkshire, England) discovered that the airborne germ count in and around electric hand dryers is twenty-seven times higher than the air around paper towel dispensers. But that’s not the half of it. Let us look at some other data.

A study published by Applied and Environmental Microbiology earlier this year suggests that as many as sixty different kinds of bacteria can be expelled from an electric hand dryer in just thirty seconds. The study looked at thirty-six public restrooms at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

If that’s not scary enough, get this: the main source of the bacteria is feces. Apparently, flushing the toilet with the lid open can send a spray of aerosolized feces up to fifteen feet in the air. Once in the air, the aerosolized feces can move about by way of general air movement. The more people using a given public restroom, the more feces are floating around in the air.

In a perfect world, everyone who uses a public restroom would put the toilet seat lid down before flushing. But this is not a perfect world. Some people cannot even be bothered to lift the seat. Expecting people to put down the lid is an entirely different matter. What’s more, many public restroom toilets do not even have lids.

paper hand towel

Paper Towels Are a Big Help

Now that you know what might be floating around in the air in your building’s restrooms, understand that electric hand dryers do not get hot enough to kill bacteria. If they did, they would burn people. The point is this: paper is a better solution for drying hands in public restrooms.

You want your company’s restrooms to be as clean and sterile as possible, right? One of the easiest and most cost-effective choices you can make is to trade in your electric hand dryers for paper towel dispensers. Not only will restroom users not be exposed to as much harmful bacteria, but they will also be able to dry their hands more quickly.

The mom in Carlsbad ran an impromptu science experiment that offers a visual reminder of what previous studies have already shown: electric hand dryers are bacteria dispensers. If you have seen the picture yourself, you know exactly what we are talking about. What more motivation is needed to make the switch from electric to paper? Just know that Alsco’s washroom services is but a phone call away for any and all of your restroom requirements.