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The truth about bathroom hand dryers will make you never want to use one

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Bathroom hand dryers are really germ sprayers, says new study

Washing your hands after using the bathroom is one of the best things you can do for your health — but it turns out what you do right after could be one of the worst. According to a new study, how you dry your hands makes all the difference between getting icky toilet germs off your hands and shooting them straight up your nose.

It turns out, the way we dry our hands could negate all that sing-happy-birthday-twice sink scrubbing. Research from the University of Leeds shows that hand dryers that blow air spread germs all over the bathroom and all over you. And while "fecal transplants" may be making the news for helping to cure digestive problems, the truth is most of us still want to keep poo — especially other people's — as far from our mouths as possible.

So this, my friends, is pretty bad news. Yes, we've been focusing all our germ prevention tactics on the wrong thing.

The researchers put Lactobacillus, a harmless bacteria not normally found in bathrooms, on volunteers' hands and instructed them to wash and dry their hands as they normally would. Airborne germ counts were 27 times higher around hand dryers in comparison with the air around paper towel dispensers. Even worse, the bacteria lingered well past 15 minutes post-dry session.

And it didn't matter what type of hand dryer it was.

All types of hand dryers were germ-sprayers. But you know those high-powered jet engine dryers? They may dry your hands faster but it turns out they also spread your germs faster and farther than older "warm air" methods.

Eek. Take it from Professor Mark Wilcox, lead author on the study:

Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it. You may also be splattered with bugs from other people's hands.

In other words, use the towels.

Will you do things differently in public restrooms now?

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