Cleanzine: your weekly cleaning and hygiene industry newsletter 23rd March 2023 Issue no. 1057
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Five things you thought you knew about hand dryers
By Matt Anderson, Director of Velair
"As members of the hand dryer industry, we rarely have much to say about TikTok beauty trends - but, since dryers have played a high-profile part in a recent set of viral videos, we'll make an exception in this case.
The trend itself is straightforward enough: some people are using jet air hand dryers to curl their hair.
As a result, however, a popular medical TikTok has reacted to this idea by reigniting the age-old and increasingly untenable claim that hand dryers aren't hygienic.
With this old story finding new ways to do the rounds, we thought now would be a good time to do some hand dryer myth-busting with five facts you thought you knew about hand dryers:
Fact 1: "the science doesn't support hand dryers"
This isn't the case.
The medical TikTok mentioned above is correct to some extent: studies have been done to work out if hand dryers spread bacteria, but the results aren't particularly impressive.
In fact, a recent and detailed report from The Guardian points out that "the paper towel industry has funded or promoted a rash of studies claiming that hand dryers turn bathrooms into mosh pits of pathogens" - and, of course, these claims make for very clickable headlines, even when the studies themselves are too "vague" or "equivocal" to amount to much.
These paper towel industry-funded studies are great for fearmongering, even when their results are mild. The report from the Guardian describes one study in which higher levels of bacteria were only found on the floors of the restrooms they tested, and on the surfaces of the dryers and towel dispensers - yet the journalistic coverage of that study described dryers as "germ cannons".
In short: these studies really aren't the final word on the subject.
Fact 2: "hand dryers spread Covid"
Bearing in mind how easy it is to generate worrying headlines on the basis of mild findings, it's not difficult to see how easily these issues translate to our new awareness of viral transmission in the age of Covid.
Obviously, it's true that Covid is spread through the air, and we should all do what we can to minimise that kind of transmission.
However, recent research from independent microbiologist Dr David L. Webber has found that even in a small washroom area, hand dryers only disturb between 2% and 3% cent of air volume - meaning they're unlikely to spread microbes.
More broadly, a March report by Dr Nish Makek published in the BBC's Science Focus magazine is quite clear that - in health terms - it "probably doesn't matter much" whether we use paper towels or hand dryers.
Fact 3: "paper towels are the cheaper option"
It may not matter in terms of health, but when it comes to price, the choice is clear - and hand dryers are the clear winner.
This might come as a surprise, but the fact is that - after the initial cost of the machine itself - running a hand dryer is significantly cheaper than purchasing paper towels.
Obviously, we're going through a period of energy-related uncertainty at the moment, but even making allowances for that kind of disruption, the annual costs of each method can be as stark as comparing a three-figure sum to a one-figure sum.
We've made some calculations based on our Pebble range of dryers (which are, admittedly, on the more efficient end of the scale), and we've found that savings can be as high as 98%.
In terms of price, then, it's not even a close contest.
Fact 4: "paper towels are more sustainable"
Although paper towels are made of paper (as the name suggests!), that doesn't mean they're the eco-friendly option.
According to the State of the Global Paper Industry 2018 report, "the pulp and paper industry is one of the world's biggest polluters" - not only does making a single A4 sheet of paper use 20 litres of water in the process, but the industry as a whole uses a remarkable 4% of the world's energy.
On top of this, you have to factor in the likes of transport-related emissions and plastic packaging - and, of course, it's not easy to recycle paper that's designed to be covered in various kinds of contaminants.
By contrast, as mentioned above, today's efficient dryers consume a negligible amount of energy - and don't have to be thrown away after every use.
Fact 5: "hand dryers are unhygienic"
Given the above discussions about overblown studies and fearmongering about Covid risks, it won't be surprising to learn that Fact 5 isn't true either.
In fact, the very latest dryers - like our own Pebble+ - are exceptionally hygienic, making use of cutting-edge HEPA filters, UV-C light disinfection, and antimicrobial finishes to create a truly hygienic experience.
Combine this with a newer innovation like negative ion generation, and you're left with dryers that not only blow clean air, but which have the power to purify and sterilise the air around them.
Recognising and encouraging this kind of move will reposition hand dryers away from fearmongering about "germ cannons" and, instead, place them at the heart of a new standard for washroom cleanliness in a world where safe air is as important as clean, dry hands."
31st March 2022