Research highlights importance of hand drying method

15th of October 2010
Research highlights importance of  hand drying method

The debate about which hand drying method is the most hygienic continues, with the publication of a new study which concludes that bacterial levels increase when rubbing hands together under an electric warm air dryer.

Researchers at Bradford University in the UK concluded that paper towels were the most effective means of reducing the risk of infection after washing. The main aim of the study however, was to compare the ultra-rapid hand dryer the Dyson Airblade with conventional warm air dryers with regard to bacterial transfer after drying and the impact on bacterial numbers of rubbing hands during dryer use. The report was commissioned by Dyson but independently peer reviewed - it has been published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

The main hazard lies in the fact that bacteria living within the skin is brought to the surface when wet hands are rubbed together under a dryer. The bacteria can then be transferred to other surfaces. Dr Anna Snelling from the university commented: "Good hand hygiene should include drying hands thoroughly and not just washing.

Most hygienic

"The most hygienic method of drying hands is using paper towels or using a hand dryer which doesn't require rubbing your hands together."

The study also found that not drying hands at all also led to the increased risk of spreading bacteria. The wetter a person's hands the more likely they are to transfer infection onto another surface. The report found that a 'diverse mixture of bacteria' survived hand washing, increasing the importance of drying hands effectively.

The scientists looked at three methods of drying - paper towels; traditional hand dryers which rely on evaporation and often advise users to rub their hands together; and the new Dyson Airblade. They found that bacteria on wet hands, washed without soap, was reduced by up to 48 per cent when using a paper towel and 38 per cent with the Airblade.

But when hands were rubbed together under a traditional dryer the figure varied from a reduction in bacteria of 1.7 per cent to an increase of up to 18 per cent.

Positive endorsement

ECJ invited tissue manufacturer SCA Tissue Europe to comment on these latest findings. Jenny Turner, UK marketing director said: "Both the recent University of Westminster study and now the peer-reviewed University of Bradford research have concluded that paper towels consistently outperform other drying techniques in relation to bacteria left on the palms and fingertips.

“These are positive endorsements for the provision of paper towels in environments where hygiene - and the need to reduce possible bacterial transfer - are both crucial factors."
And Vectair Systems, which specialises in ultra high speed dryers added: "The speed and efficacy of a warm air hand dryer was previously a concern, and a manual hand dryer often suffered from criticisms such as being slow, unreliable and uneconomical. It was frowned upon as a product that didn’t actually dry hands properly.

Major market development

"However, fast forward a decade and there have been major developments in the market. Ultra high speed, automatic dryers that are extremely energy and cost efficient now dominate the hand drying industry. These new models are pushing the boundaries of innovation."

European Tissue Symposium chairman Roberto Berardi was also pleased with the results of the research. "The study confirms that tissue is the most hygienic means of drying hands. ETS is pleased that this peer reviewed research by the University of Bradford published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology confirms the findings of the University of Westminster and previous studies that paper hand towels are the most hygienic way to dry hands.

"ETS is pleased to note that the University of Bradford and Dyson are also taking other results of the Westminster study seriously and will be carrying out their own tests to confirm that jet air dryers blow micro-organisms up to two metres away and may potentially contaminate other users."

And a statement from Kimberly-Clark Professional said: "We welcome the publication of the University of Bradford study, as it supports the significance of correct hand drying methods to maintain good hand hygiene. Kimberly-Clark has long been recognising and highlighting that effective hand washing and subsequent hand drying is paramount to prevent the spread of a range of diseases." 


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