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This is one of my favorite topics about public bathrooms.  Are hand dryers hygienic and, if so, which ones are the best?

We live in a society which encourages the Obsessive/Compulsive in all of us.  The news media is constantly barraging us with pieces about the “germiest” things in our lives.  Yet somehow we have survived for centuries despite living with microorganisms everywhere.  So a lot of the talk on germs is just hype designed to scare us.

This is another area where the paper companies and hand dryer companies can both cite multiple scientific studies to make the case that their products are indeed the most hygienic.  And since it’s such a hot topic that can elicit emotional responses from people, you will find all sorts of sponsored-studies and opinions that are really designed to help market a specific product or company.

Many people prefer paper towels because they can use it to open a door or turn off a sink.  Thus, we have seen the development of touch free faucets and public bathrooms that do not have a door.  But what about the next door or the next?  Do we walk around with paper towels all day?  And isn’t there Purell or something like it everywhere including our desks and homes?  Do some people fail to wash their hands after going to the bathroom?  Certainly, yes.  Is this a massive public health issue?  It is for those people for sure, but I’m pretty sure if you touch the door handle, you can use the disinfecting gel at your desk to keep sanitized!

Some bathrooms should deservedly have a higher level of hygiene sensitivity.  Hospitals and healthcare come to mind.  Food manufacturing and distribution also have higher health standards than do offices, factories, or schools, and they are regulated to those standards.  And, true to form, the hand dryer companies have added some new hygiene-related features.

One of the most exciting new hygiene innovations comes from American Dryer and their new ExtremeAir CPC (or Cold Plasma Clean).  This unit uses bi-polar ionization to kill germs and other pathogens in the air and on hands.   It uses a Cold Plasma Generator to generate steady-state positive and negative discharge points to split water molecules in the air into oppositely charged hydrogen and oxygen ions, which are proven to break down harmful pathogens into simple, safe, naturally occurring molecules.

American Dryer had its CPC technology tested by EMSL Labs (an elite CDC-certified lab) to prove that it kills harmful and microscopic pathogens (including E.Coli, C. Diff, Staph, MRSA and TB).  CPC technology was also tested for safety by Underwriters Laboratory (UL), passing both the UL867 and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards (for ozone).  For more information, see the American Dryer CPC White Paper.

Anti-microbial coatings are another innovation that is included in many new hand dryer products (brand names like Microban or BioCote).  These coatings us silver ion technology to reduce bacteria’s ability to reproduce.  They generally integrate the silver ion into the plastics or coatings and they do not “run out” but rather last as long as the product.  Several of the newer World Dryer products contain this, as do Veltia and Dyson products.  With Dyson, the coatings are in both the exterior and interior of the product.

Another hygienic feature of the Dyson product is their HEPA filter.  To our knowledge, it’s the only product that has a motor powerful enough to use a HEPA, which removes 99.97% of  bacteria and mold that goes through the machine and blows on your skin.  It’s an extremely long-lasting filter, so that for many customers it’s actually lifetime.  They run around $40 to replace.  Xlerators also offer an optional HEPA filter.

Dyson is also the only manufacturer we know that has gone through the trouble of getting independent hygiene organizations to test and certify their dryer.  They passed the NSF protocol as a hygienic hand dryer and were endorsed in the U.K. by the Royal Institute for Public Health (now called the Royal Society of Public Health).  They also have certifications for use in food manufacturing (where there is a lot of hand washing) by HACCP International, the global food safety organization that sets hygiene protocols for food preparation and manufacture.