Go for paper towels when drying hands to help keep the bugs at bay
Proper hand drying after hand washing is a key step in keeping healthy, particularly during the autumn & winter months when coughs and colds abound. Follow these 5 key tips from the European Tissue Symposium (ETS) to help keep you and your family healthy this autumn & winter:
1. Wash and dry hands properly when out and about in public places
Effective hand washing and drying are essential to minimise the risk of infection. While the WHO has guidelines on optimal hand washing, there is no similar guidance on the most effective way to dry hands. The methods in public washrooms are based on either water absorption – paper and textile towels – or water dispersal – jet air and warm air dryers. The body of research over many years shows single-use towels as offering the most hygienic solution.
2. Wash hands thoroughly after a visit to the washroom
Microbes on hands can be spread via water droplets and may contaminate the washroom and other users. Both viruses and bacteria can survive on the hands for some time if they are not washed and dried effectively: the Influenza virus can survive for 10-15 minutes, herpes virus for up to two hours, the common cold virus for up to one week, and rotavirus, which causes diarrhoea, for up to 60 days.
3. Dry hands with single-use towels to minimise the spread of infection
Studies1-3 show that single-use towels spread the lowest number of microbes of all hand-drying methods. Jet air and warm air dryers by contrast can result in the widespread dispersal of micro-organisms, both in the air and through potential cross contamination. Air bacterial counts around jet air dryers have been found to be 27 times higher than around paper towels, with bacteria still present in the air well beyond the 15 second drying time: 48% were still airborne after 5 minutes and their presence was still detected after 15 minutes.
4. Don’t stand too close to jet air dryers to help avoid the spread of airborne viruses and surface contamination
Research has studied airborne dispersal, surface contamination and the spread of microbes during and after three different hand-drying methods – jet air dryers, warm air dryers and paper towels. Jet air dryers were found to disperse more microorganisms further and at different heights than the other methods. A study on viral dispersal1, also found airborne virus counts to be significantly greater. Jet air dryers dispersed 1300 more virus particles than paper towels and 60 times more than warm air dryers. Combined results after 15 mins across all distances found that jet air dryers dispersed 20 times more viral particles than warm air dryers and 190 times more than paper towels.
5. Be vigilant in keeping young children well away from warm and jet air dryers which are often placed at just the right height to blow microbes directly into their faces
Children are particularly at risk of contamination as dryers are usually placed at a height that blows air directly into their faces. So, the greatest amount of droplet splattering, and consequently microbe contamination of a person drying their hands with a jet air dryer, is found at the height of the body of an adult and the face of a child.