Hand dryers dry hands, but also spread germs


Photo by Nancy Sanchez

A West Chicago Community High School student uses the hand dryer after washing her hands. (Photo taken when no other students were in the restroom.)

By Effie Giannoudakos, Reporter

Fluorescent lighting: that is what students first notice after they look into the mirror and see a warped, poorly-lit version of themselves. Then the smell, sometimes just the smell of cleaning products, and other times… well. The sound, the drippy faucets, and the oh-so-loud hand dryers. Such is the scene of a restroom at West Chicago Community High School.

Hand dryers started getting implemented in American restrooms in 1948. They originally were supposed to be a  more sanitary, cheaper, eco-friendly alternative to paper towels. 

While efficient, the hand dryers in the restrooms may spread germs. (Photo taken when no other students were in the restroom) (Photo by Emily Ziajor)

The hand dryer has been through many different prototypes to get where it is today: now, the most common hand dryer in public restrooms is the Dyson air dryer.

Despite popular opinion, hand dryers are actually a more unhygienic way to dry hands – they are far worse than paper towels. The Mayo Clinic says that hand dryers should stop being used immediately, as they blow pathogens right back on hands after washing. 

Hand dryers can also contaminate the surfaces in public restrooms, as they suck up germs and blow them out into the air, making the germs travel all across the room they are in. Some even question if air dryers contributed to spreading COVID-19.  

Paper towels are proven to be the more hygienic way to dry hands after using the restroom. There is less possibility for cross-contamination (if disposed of correctly).

There is also another even more hygienic (than a regular paper towel) option: the ‘touch-free paper towel dispenser’ which activates when one waves their hand under the machine. The device then dispenses a paper towel, making it touch-free and completely sanitary.

Some people may question if the best option is just… not to dry one’s hands. This is a good point, but has also proven to be unhygienic. Drying the hands is the most healthy choice to make when leaving the restroom. 

Hand dryers are bad for one’s health, expensive, loud, and utterly pointless. Public buildings and schools have the option of paper towels, which in most cases, can be biodegradable as they are from a renewable source (trees), and therefore better for the environment. Not only would paper towels in the restrooms reduce the energy required to blow air – air that just spreads germs – but they would avoid contaminating the entire bathroom and allowing for disease to spread much more easily. Public bathrooms are already gross, why make them worse?

Hand dryers should be taken out of restrooms at West Chicago Community High School and replaced with paper towels. This is the most eco-friendly and hygienic choice to make. Especially in post-COVID times, when the hope is that the world stays healthy and strays away from spreading more disease.