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Hand drying is crucial but the options on offer are failing us
Writes Dr Salomé Giao, lead scientist at Dyson:
Every year, Global Handwashing Day champions and campaigns for the critical importance of regular hand washing with soap. The message is a simple one: hand washing can help prevent disease transmission.
At Dyson we're huge advocates for everything Global Handwashing Day stands for. We want to contribute to the conversation by shedding light on a step in the hand hygiene process that itself plays a very important role but one that crucially remains little known: hand drying.
Effective hand drying is key to ensuring that clean hands stay clean - if it doesn't happen there are hygiene risks: it is known that wet hands can pick up more bacteria than dry ones. Moreover, damp hands can transfer up to 1,000 times more bacteria than dry hands , while wiping hands on clothes can add bacteria to washed hands if the clothes aren't clean. We need to ensure that people are able to wash and dry their hands properly.
Bacteria cannot be visualised by the naked eye, so instead imagine glitter. Now imagine you have one damp hand and one dry hand, you put both hands in the glitter and what happens? Your wet hand will be covered in glitter while the dry one will pick up less. The process mimics the difference between wet and dry hands interacting with germs and bacteria, we just can't see it with the naked eye.
But the big problem isn't that hand drying options aren't provided in washrooms. It's that the options on offer can in fact cause hygiene problems, alongside environmental challenges, and cost concerns.
Many shared washrooms will offer one of two hand drying options ' or in some instances both: electric dryers and, or paper towels.
The hygiene issues that can arise from warm air dryers begin with design issues, such as physical buttons, long dry times, and other technological limitations - a lack of air filtration being a common problem.
This can not only impact hygiene practically but may also be a concern when using warm air dryers. According to the 2021 Dyson survey on washroom attitudes, 40% of respondents in the UK are concerned that the physical button on warm air dryers is a hygiene issue, while the use of unfiltered, unclean air to dry hands is a concern for 24%. This could become a deterrent to use them and leave the washroom with wet hands.
Paper towels, on the other hand, in general don't cause hygiene concerns but they can come with environmental issues that can't be overlooked in today's world. To create, transport and dispose them at scale requires processes with higherCO2 emissions. With society becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues and the sustainability of the products they use; we need to create hand drying solutions that address them.
In a time when businesses are embedding sustainability at their core and using Corporate Social Responsibility teams to showcase progress, there's a real opportunity to standout and make washrooms a point of differentiation.
It's clear that the hand drying solutions often available in workplaces, educational settings, hospitality - we could go on - are in need of an upgrade.
Dyson Airblad hand drying technology places hand hygiene, the reduction of CO2 emissions, and cost efficiency at the forefront of its design.
The Dyson Airblad 9kJ has been found to emit up to 88% less CO2 than paper towels Compared with conventional warm air dryers, the Airblade 9kJ uses only one seventh of the energy needed. Dyson hand dryers are also engineered to alleviate the public's key washroom concerns and prioritise hygiene through touch-free design and HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters capturing 99.95% of particles as small as 0.1 microns.
Effective hand drying is a key part of effective hand hygiene, but the options too often in use are problematic. We need raise awareness about the importance of effective hand drying, and promote hand drying solutions that improve hygiene, reduce business costs and CO2 emissions.
3rd November 2022