Given the exclusive media attention that has been given to hand washing since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s no surprise that some confusion exists about the second half of the hand hygiene process: hand drying.

It may also surprise some readers that when it comes to hand drying, experts recommend both hand dryers and paper towels. In fact a recently published research study likewise found them to be equally hygienic.

Still some misinformation and confusion about the hygienic efficacy of hand dryers exists. This could be due in part to sensationalized news accounts, conflicting advice on the internet, or an underlying fear of contracting the coronavirus. Choosing a touchless hand dryer as a solution not only follows health organization guidance, but it also creates a tidy restroom environment, giving visitors peace of mind.

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The hands-under, sensor-activated design of Excel Dryer hand dryers provide a touchless and hygienic hand drying solution for commercial facilities of all types. Photo courtesy of Excel Dryer

What the Experts Say

Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) state that proper hand hygiene is the best defense against the spread of germs, like coronavirus. Specifically the WHO recommends that everyone “frequently clean [their] hands…” and “dry [them] thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that, “both [paper towels and hand dryers] are effective ways to dry your hands. Germs spread more easily when hands are wet, so make sure to dry your hands completely, whatever method you use.”

In August 2020, a team of researchers from the University of Arizona a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. The purpose of the research was to answer two questions: Are hand dryers more hygienic than paper towels, and are paper towels safer than hand dryers relative to human infection risks?

In the end they found that both methods are equally hygienic and that drying is critical, as wet hands are 1,000 times more susceptible to transfer or receive germs. Of the nearly 300 pieces of data considered, the study found to be the most credible was Effects of 4 Hand-Drying Methods for Removing Bacteria From Washed Hands: A Randomized Trial, published by the Mayo Clinic in 2000. The text of this states “…there is no difference in bacteria counts when drying with paper towels or hand dryers.”

Despite recommendations from credible health organizations about the importance of hand drying, coupled with scientific results that hand dryers can achieve completely dry hands, misinformation about hand dryers remains online, and continues to be quoted and perpetuated.

Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Community, Environment and Policy; director of the Environment, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center (ESRAC) at the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health; and corresponding researcher of the research study, offered an explanation as to the root of these misconceptions, stating that, “Consumers may only read [sensationalized] headlines which can influence public opinion toward biased or erroneous conclusions, [but] the fact is, the breadth of data available does not favor one hand drying method as being more hygienic or safer.”

Studies like this help to articulate what we long have known: Germ removal itself happens through proper handwashing, regardless of drying method; and hands-under, high-speed, energy-efficient hand drying achieved by Excel Dryer products is an efficient and hygienic method for drying hands after washing.

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All dryers in Excel’s line are hygienic, but dryers with HEPA have been proven to add another level of protection. Viral efficiency testing conducted by the preeminent independent air media and filter testing company, LMS Technologies, in April 2020 found that XLERATOR, XLERATOReco, and XLERATORsync Hand Dryers with HEPA Filtration Systems remove 99.999% of viruses from the airstream. The 380 million viruses used during the testing ranged in size between 16.5 and 604.3 nanometers—not dissimilar to the size of the novel coronavirus. Photo courtesy of Excel Dryer

Hand Drying With Hand Dryer vs. Paper Towels: A Comparison

Although both methods are recognized as safe, effective, and hygienic ways to dry hands, paper towels come with their own challenges.

Limited Supply

As we saw during the pandemic, paper products can run out, and paper towels are no exception. If unavailable, hands cannot be dried at all—and wet hands have been shown to be 1,000 times more likely to transfer germs than dry hands.

Hygiene

Paper towels can be left in damp piles on countertops, across the floor, spilling out of trash cans and clogging up toilets. These messes provide breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria at a time when hygiene is a matter of life and death. One independent study showed 17 species of bacteria on unused, recycled paper towels, including Bacillus, which can cause food poisoning.

Source

Paper towels come from trees, a threat against the increasingly important need for environmentally sustainable practices.

Transportation

Gas-consuming, carbon-emitting delivery trucks are required to transport lumber to mills and finished product to businesses; paper waste must also be transported from facilities, to landfills.

Production

Paper is produced through chemical or mechanical pulping—another stress on the environment. One ton of paper uses 20,000 gallons of water in production.

Maintenance

Paper towels require labor hours to stock, restock, clean and discard.

Life Cycle

A used paper towel—even if 100% recycled—has only one ultimate destination: the landfill.

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All dryers in Excel’s line are hygienic, but dryers with HEPA have been proven to add another level of protection. Photo courtesy of Excel Dryer

Meanwhile hand dryers offer the following benefits over paper towels.

Hygiene

Hand dryers eliminate the mess of paper towels. Hands-free, no-touch sensors reduce the number of restroom touchpoints, a crucial asset in the fight for public health.

Sustainability

Compared to paper towels and traditional hand dryers, XLERATOR® provides up to a 75% reduction in carbon footprint.

Cost

XLERATOR provides a 95 percent cost savings versus paper towels.

Labor

XLERATOR eliminates the labor, maintenance and waste of paper towels.

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The XLERATORsync Hand Dryer reverses and fans out the high-speed airflow to blow away from the user and toward the bottom of the sink basin of the D|13 Sink System. Photo courtesy of Excel Dryer

Reducing Restroom Touchpoints for Better Hand Hygiene

As facility professionals are all too aware, restroom patrons and maintenance professionals alike often encounter a wide range of surfaces that require their touch—door handles, stall latches, toilet seats, sink faucet handles, and more. Reducing the number of required restroom touchpoints can cut the number of times hands are exposed to germs. Likewise, a reduction of touchpoints will also cut down on time required to complete restroom deep cleaning, a reality of our collective “new normal.” Good product design can achieve a touchpoint reduction and contribute to a restroom’s good hygiene.

The hands-under style of our dryers makes them sensor-activated—that is, the motor is turned on, and the drying of hands begins once a user’s hands are placed below the hand dryer unit. This is an effective hand drying option and helps to promote hand hygiene and create a more hygienic restroom experience. Air and water from hands are blown downward and away from users, as opposed to being captured in the unit, a problem encountered by trough-style dryers, commonly referred to as “hands-in” units.

Some customers opt to install antimicrobial wall guards below their units for an added level of protection, particularly in high-traffic areas or on walls that are not easily disinfected, such as dry wall, as opposed to tile, which can be sprayed with disinfectant and wiped down. The antimicrobial wall guards are manufactured with Microban antimicrobial additive and are designed specifically to fit securely underneath any Excel Hand Dryer, protecting walls and helping create a more hygienic restroom environment.

Next Level Hygiene: HEPA Protection

All dryers in Excel’s line are hygienic, but dryers with HEPA have been proven to add another level of protection. Viral efficiency testing conducted by the preeminent independent air media and filter testing company, LMS Technologies in April of 2020 found that XLERATOR, XLERATOReco and XLERATORsync Hand Dryers with HEPA Filtration Systems remove 99.999% of viruses from the airstream. The systems were challenged with 380 million viruses ranging in size between 16.5 and 604.3 nanometers—not dissimilar to the size of the novel coronavirus—with basically none of them making it through the HEPA filtration system.

The HEPA Filtration System comes standard in the XLERATORsync and is an available option in XLERATOR and XLERATOReco models, providing an added level of protection against germs. It is the only one with a removable and washable metal mesh pre-filter to block dust and particles, which extends the life of the HEPA filter.

XLERATOR Hand Dryers with HEPA Filtration Systems provide a more hygienic hand drying experience and environment compared to restrooms using paper towels. This touchless hand hygiene solution eliminates the multiple unnecessary touch points that come with using paper towels as a drying method, including handling during their manufacture, shipping, storage, restocking, and, once used, the germ-laden waste removal. By reducing touchpoints, the risk of germ transfer is also reduced.

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The D|13 Sink System fuses no-touch, high-efficiency fixtures on the sink deck allowing users to wash, rinse, and dry hands all in one place. A masterpiece of form and function, the D|13 Sink System is now being lauded for its touchless operation and hygienic design attributes. Photo courtesy of Excel Dryer

The Restroom of the Future: Integrated and Touchless

A facility’s restrooms are the ultimate reflection of the facility itself. To a visitor or customer, paper towels littered on the floor or clogging the toilets signal an unclean establishment. The D|13 Sink System featuring the new XLERATORsync Hand Dryer by Excel Dryer not only eradicates these problems, but it is also the most hygienic, sustainable, and cost-effective way to wash and dry hands.

A masterpiece of form and function, the D|13 integrated sink system, which once was highly regarded as the future of upscale commercial restrooms, is now, in light of the pandemic, being lauded for its touchless operation and hygienic design attributes.

The system fuses no-touch, high-efficiency fixtures on the sink deck allowing users to wash, rinse, and dry hands all in one place. The true differentiator of the D|13 system is how the sink basin and high-efficiency hand dryer are specifically designed to work together. The XLERATORsync reverses and fans out the high-speed airflow to blow away from the user and toward the bottom of the sink basin. The sink basin is designed with the appropriate depth and angles to keep the air and water in the sink and away from the user.

Another unique feature is the sound suppression air delivery system that uses sound-absorbing foam and a Helmholtz resonator to eliminate noise from the motor. It also includes adjustable speed and sound controls to regulate the sound level, key for sound-sensitive environments, and comes standard with a HEPA Filtration System.

The D|13 Sink System is available with individual or connected basins in Corian, quartz, or any other solid surface. The enclosure can be a matching solid surface or high-end laminates for an upscale, warmer, residential feel. It can be alcoved, wall hung with finished ends, or free standing with legs. Trash receptacles and baby changing stations can also be added, incorporating multiple elements into one product.

As the most customizable, efficient and user-friendly touchless hand hygiene solution on the market, the D|13 Sink System can be any commercial restroom’s ultimate centerpiece.

Time to Throw in the Towel

Proper hand hygiene and the protection of public health are growing concerns guaranteed to influence the design and construction of public restrooms into the future. Facility executives can choose the ultimate hygienic solution with the line of XLERATOR Hand Dryers. Excel hand dryers are a safe, hygienic, touchless solution and an effective way to achieve completely dry hands, a critical part of proper hand hygiene and the top defense against the spread of germs. When it comes to public health, you are in good hands with Excel Dryer.

Learn more about Excel Dryer

https://www.exceldryer.com

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gb&dPRO members are recognized experts in their fields and contribute opinion columns as one of their member benefits. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and may not reflect the view of gb&d. We are committed to a diversity of voices advocating for high-performing, sustainable built environment practices. We’d like to hear what you think about this article or any of our other coverage. Send us an email at [email protected]om.