Effective hand drying emphasis

25th of November 2010


Dear editor,

As co-author of Bradford University’s report, which featured in your article, 'Research highlights importance of hand drying method’ (Oct 2010); I would like to address some points raised.

The article states that Bradford University’s research concluded paper towels were the most effective means of reducing the risk of infection compared to all electric hand dryers. No conclusion was made regarding the risk of infection and therefore, a comparison cannot be drawn from the study.  The research was entirely focused on comparing different electric dryers, the transfer of microbes due to residual moisture and the impact of rubbing hands together during drying.

Paper towels were added to the study only to consider another common drying method where hands are rubbed together. Bacterial numbers on the skin were measured to illustrate the effect of rubbing the hands during drying but there was no attempt to identify the species of bacteria removed or remaining on the hands.  Many of the bacteria found on hands are harmless and needed to protect the skin.

No conclusion on hygiene

Therefore, no conclusion was reached as to whether a 48 per cent reduction of skin bacteria is any more ‘hygienic’ than 38 per cent - this subject is still very much open to debate. Drying hands completely is key, as the transfer of bacteria to other surfaces significantly decreases, in some cases to zero, regardless of the quantity of bacteria remaining on the skin. 

The research found the best drying method for limiting bacterial transfer is either paper towels or a dryer, including the Dyson Airblade hand dryer, which dries hands quickly and effectively and where rubbing the hands together is not required. The generation of contaminated paper towel waste should also be considered as it could pose a hygiene hazard if not disposed of correctly. 

The European Tissue Symposium (ETS) says that it supports the peer-reviewed Bradford research.  In doing so it supports the study’s findings which confirm that the Dyson Airblade hand dryer is hygienic and reduces the number of bacteria on people’s hands.  This, however, contradicts the findings of ETS’ own report from University of Westminster Trading, not peer-reviewed. 

This research was designed to highlight the importance of effective hand drying. It is important isolated sentences from published studies such as this are not used out of context as this can undermine the validity of the work.

Toby Saville,
Dyson microbiologist

Read the original story from the October 11 edition


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