Are hand dryers doing more harm than good? 5 things to know

High-speed jet air dryers commonly found in public restrooms are germ-spreading machines, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

"We often say that hand-washing is the key to preventing the spread of illness. But wet hands increase the risk of transmitting bacteria, so drying is an equally important step in prevention," said Theresa Lash-Ritter, MD, urgent care specialist at Cleveland Clinic.

For the study, microbiologists from the University of Westminster in London compared three hand drying methods (paper towels, warm air dryers and jet air dryers) to examine their potential virus and germ spreading abilities.

Here are five things to know about hand drying.

1. Beware the jet: According to the study, the jet air dryer spread 20 times more viruses than the warm air dryer and upwards of 190 times more than paper towels.

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2. Look out below: In regards to the jet air dryer, the virus dispersal's impact was greatest at 2.5 to 4.1 feet — so about face level for small children.

3. Tried and true: Paper towels proved the most effective drying method in terms of sanitation and speed. "Drying your hands with paper towels not only dries them faster, but the friction also dislodges bacteria to leave them cleaner," said Dr. Lash-Ritter.

4. Common sense: Leave those cloth dispensers alone. Often times the cloth at the end of the roll gets reused over and over again, which can transmit germs from one hand to another.

5. Better than nothing: While some are major proponents of hand sanitizers, they can't remove all harmful chemicals and their germ killing ability is limited. Make sure hand sanitizer is at least 60 percent alcohol.

More articles on infection control: 
10 most-read infection control stories in February 
Zika spread could be battled with climate information 
Putting hand sanitizer in high-traffic areas ups use 528%

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