Why You Might Want to Use Paper Towels Instead of Hand Dryers in Public Bathrooms

hand dryer in public restroomWikimedia Commons

Over the years, we’ve given you plenty of solid advice on how you can better use your everyday bathroom accouterments. We’ve warned you about the potential dangers of misusing toilet paper, toilet seat covers, toilet seats in general, and even your toilet paper roll holder.

Yep, chances are you’re probably not the ace in the bathroom you thought you were. Shocking, right?

Well, what if we told you that your bathroom-related flubs don’t just have to do with toilet paper anymore? Instead, this one has everything to do with the hand-drying devices that you’re using.

Yep, folks, this is going to get gross. Informative, sure— but still really gross.

According to a report published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, those all-too-common hot-air hand dryers found in nearly every public restroom might actually be doing more harm than good. The findings showed that the strong, circular air-flow emitted from these devices — get ready for this — actually ends up blowing around the bacteria most commonly found in bathrooms.

Yep, THAT bacteria. And it’s not that the potentially harmful germs simply get swept up into the air; the air movement literally makes a little tornado of germs that hovers directly over your hands.

Now, we’re going to be really graphic here, just in case your mind hasn’t completely grasped what we’ve been telling you…


You know, hands, those instruments that you use to eat, blow your nose, touch your eyes, apply makeup, caress your loved ones, and so on.

And if those grotesque details haven’t convinced you to stay away from the bathroom version of a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing, let us regale you with some even more disturbing statistics compiled from the University of Connecticut study…

The university conducted this test in 36 of its School of Medicine restrooms, and in several of the samples, the ultra-destructive staphylococcus aureus was found to spray directly back onto the hands when the dryer was used. In case you didn’t know, Staphylococcus aureus can cause skin infections, pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome, and even sepsis.

Researchers theorize that this bacterium becomes airborne when toilets, particularly the lidless ones, are flushed. Previous studies have shown that this ickiness can be projected an astounding 15 feet up into the air, which is how it can so easily get acquainted with your hands once some hot hair is blown around.

So, now that you are thoroughly educated — and disgusted! — by hand dryers, you may be wondering how you can protect yourself. Well, the good news is that the study found that this concentrated amount of Staphylococcus aureus was generally only detected when the hand dryers were in use, which means that public restrooms are still safe!

We know it’s not necessarily the most environmentally-friendly answer, but it’s probably best to reach for the paper towels instead. Of course, you can also simply air dry your hands, too. Either option is clearly better than the alternative!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this disturbing bathroom revelation. Did you suspect this to be true about hand dryers? Will you continue to use them? What’s a good alternative?