There are a few things in life that are unavoidable. To name a few, death, taxes and public restrooms are the most prominent. Whether you are at a gas station or even on campus, public restrooms are present for your convenience. These places can vary on upkeep, soap smells and hand drying materials. My main concern treads along these lines, but some of my grumbles are towards its many guests. I like to imagine everyone washes their hands with soap and water like they should, but obviously this is not guaranteed. As gross as it sounds to not wash your hands, there is another disturbing issue surrounding the cleanliness of hands which people may not consider. Imagine washing your hands just to have even more germs swoop in and invade when drying your hands. This, unfortunately, occurs when one uses a fancy hand dryer in a bathroom.
You might have never thought of this, but I think about it every time I see one. I know I might be a germaphobe, but hand dryers are a good reason to be freaked out. If you put in the effort to wash your hands, you do not want them to become dirty right away.
The reasons for how bacteria get into the hand dryers are gross, but fairly simple.
Josh Hafner of USA Today explains, "fecal bacteria shoots into the air when a lidless toilet flushes — a phenomenon known, grossly, as a 'toilet plume.'"
I do not know about you, but I find this really disgusting. It puzzles me as to why we use them. You might think this problem is not as bad as you think, and if that is the case, I will probably refrain from shaking your hand. On a campus with as many people as ours, it can be easy to get sick, especially if you think about what could be on your hands after using one of these.
Additionally, hand dryers have been tested for their sanitation before, with disgusting results.
According to Dr. John Ross of Chicago Health, "petri dishes exposed to hot air from a bathroom hand dryer for 30 seconds grew up to 254 colonies of bacteria (though most had from 18 to 60 colonies of bacteria)."
Ross explains these germs come from the air in the bathroom, which is blown through the hand dryer. They may dry our hands, but these machines also make washing our hands in the bathroom ineffectual. To put it another way, it is not only your germs being blown back at you.
Many people prefer this method of hand drying because it saves paper and trees. I keep hearing this as the main reason for installing and using air dryers. This is the only positive with which I agree. However, I do not think this completely outweighs the numerous negatives. I like the idea of saving trees, but I cannot shake the thought of bathroom germs rocketing towards my squeaky clean hands. Ross even advocates for paper towels over air hand dryers, and claims they are "the most hygienic way to dry your hands."
In addition, paper towels are more useful in keeping people's hands dry and clean. A bathroom without paper towels can cause problems, especially if you are trying to avoid the germ rocket. If you are trying to dry your hands and stay clean, then you have to resort to using your clothing to wipe off your hands. Also, if you try to use toilet paper to dry your hands in these desperate situations, the toilet paper will stick to your hands like a low-budget mummy movie. Life happens, but paper towels should also be readily available to clean up spills and messes. What else would you use to clean up the coffee you might have spilled on your favorite Mississippi State University t-shirt?
Most of the negatives, besides the germ infestation issue, can fall under the category of annoyances.
According to Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post, "Everything about them is terrible. Hot air dryers dry your hand with all the force of six gnomes gently whispering at you…Your hand emerges uncomfortably hot and just as wet as it was before."
It is annoying when you put faith in these machines, but they fail. When this happens, you may feel betrayed that your hands are still wet. Sure, these contraptions are presented as useful, especially in the deodorant commercial where a lady is trying to speedily dry her sweaty armpits. However, in reality, they are not as useful. Besides being germ habitats, they are also loud. As if the uncleanliness associated with them is not enough, they sound like a vacuum cleaner eating a rug. However, this is just a minor grievance of mine in addition to the germ rocket factor.
Some love these dryers, and some love paper towels. Since this topic is divided between the fans of each, I would like to propose a compromise. It is obvious paper towels are the more sanitary route, but trees are a concern for many. We should figure out a way to make these two live in harmony. Options to make air dryers cleaner or paper towels more eco-friendly should be explored. Until then, I am going to try not to get germ-covered and sick.