Space & Innovation

Hand Dryers Can Spread Disease Far Across the Bathroom

Dyson jet dryers can launch viruses as far as three meters.

Dyson hand dryers are becoming a familiar sight in bathrooms around the world. You insert your wet hands between the air blades, a blast of air comes out, and you slowly pull your hands up and out through the air. In a world where almost everything is covered with all sorts of bacteria, these dryers seem like a good way to avoid touching germ-ridden surfaces.

However, a new study suggests these dryers may spread a host of viruses. Patrick Kimmitt and Keith Redway of the University of Westminster looked at three hand-drying methods: the Dyson Airblade, a standard warm air dryer, and paper towels. Participants in the study wore gloves covered in a virus called MS2, which acted similarly to the norovirus -- a nasty stomach flu.

Participants then used one of the hand-drying methods and the researchers set up plates in the vicinity to catch any airborne microbes. The plates were coated with E. coli , which gets killed on contact with the MS2 virus. That's essentially what researchers were looking for: "dead zones" on these plates, also referred to as plaques.

The Dyson air dryers consistently resulted in more plaques -- at greater distances too, found the results of the study, published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

The Dyson Airblades produced 60 times the amount of plaques made by the standard blow dryer and 1,300 times more than the paper towels. In terms of distance, the Dyson dryer tended to spread the MS2 virus about .25 meters away, but the researchers found traces of virus as far as 3 meters (9 feet) away.

So, maybe next time, reach for the paper towels instead. If you ever decide to give up on washing your hands and your body altogether, here's a look at what would happen.