Can You Contract Bacteria from a Hand Dryer?

bacteria from a hand dryer

For years, there’s been a debate about whether you can get bacteria from a hand dryer. According to a recent study, you can. Not only that, but the authors also dubbed hand dryers “bacteria bombs.”

What the Study Found

The authors first placed plates that collect germs in 36 men’s and women’s bathrooms with hot-air dryers. They ran the hand dryer in one-half of the bathrooms and left it off in the other half. After two minutes, they looked at the plates to see how many bacterial colonies there were.

In the bathrooms where the hand dryer wasn’t running, there were only one or two colonies on the plates. But the plates exposed to dryer air managed to collect between 18 and 60 colonies on average. On some plates, there were as many as 250 different bacterial colonies.

The researchers also tested the diffusion of bacteria from a hand dryer. They concluded that any air movement can pose a serious bacterial hazard. Hand dryers are particularly dangerous as a lot of air passes through them each minute. And while certain filters may lower the number of bacteria dispersed, they still can’t eliminate them in full.

Hand Dryer vs. Other Methods

Another recent study compared the diffusion of bacteria from a hand dryer and paper towels. The authors found that people who used jet dryers had the most bacteria on their hands. There were four times fewer bacteria on the hands of the people who used warm-air dryers.

Surprisingly, the people who used paper towels to dry their hands had 27 times fewer bacteria on their hands. The authors thus concluded that paper towels are the safest way for people to dry their hands after washing them.

Final Word

Hand dryers can disperse dozens of types of bacteria and thus make your hands dirtier than they were before you washed them. So if you have a choice, you should always dry your hands using paper towels. They may not be as environmentally friendly, but they’ll keep you protected from harmful bacteria.