Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

The No-touch Way To Reaching Hand Hygiene

August 17, 2012

In commercial buildings, facility managers can provide a simple solution to help control illnesses and infections by encouraging tenants and guests to properly wash and dry their hands after visiting the restroom.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing is one of the single most preventive measures against the spread of infectious disease.

To help ensure that tenants and guests are frequently and properly washing their hands, facility managers and maintenance staff must be prepared to face the challenges of maintaining a hygienic, effective and satisfying restroom environment.

One purchasing decision facility managers often face is choosing between touchless towel dispensers, air dryers and mechanical towel dispensers.

Properly Washing Hands

While there have been many articles and research regarding the overall benefits of handwashing and various handwashing agents, such as antimicrobial soaps and sanitizers, there have also been a few studies on the contribution of hand drying to overall hand hygiene.

By washing hands properly using soap and water, followed by a thorough drying with a paper towel, the presence of germs on hands can be reduced.

Here are some simple handwashing steps recommended by the CDC:

  • Wet hands with clean, running water and apply soap
  • Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub them well, making sure to scrub the backs of hands, between fingers and under nails
  • Continue rubbing hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Rinse hands well under running water
  • Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
During the handwashing process, properly drying hands can be just as important as using soap and water.

Wet hands have been known to transfer pathogens more readily than dry hands or hands not washed at all.

In fact, a common misconception is that the residual water left on hands after washing is actually clean.

However, this leftover water can essentially increase the spread of infections because it contains bacteria and microorganisms that can be transferred among people.

According to a University of Westminster study, some drying solutions can actually increase the amount of bacteria on a person''s hands.

The study found that traditional warm air dryers can increase the average number of bacteria on finger pads by up to 194 percent and by up to 254 percent on palms.

Additionally, jet air dryers can increase the average number of bacteria on finger pads by up to 42 percent and on palms by up to 15 percent.

However, not all hand drying methods increase bacteria.

In fact, the same study also revealed that using paper towels can reduce bacteria on finger pads by up to 76 percent and on palms by up to 77 percent.

This is partially due to the fact that the drying friction caused by the paper towel can remove dirt, grease, bacteria and skin squames from the hands.

Along with removing bacteria on fingers and palms, paper towels can also be used to protect customers against other germ-infested objects in washrooms.

Selecting The Best Solution

So, how does a facility manager select the best towel dispenser for their facility?

Similar to the evaluation process between hand dryers and paper towel dispensers, purchasers should assess solutions based on hygiene and waste reduction.

According to the American Journal of Infection Control, bacteria, such as those that cause the influenza virus, can thrive and linger on surfaces for up to 72 hours.

As a result, mechanical towel dispensers may contain more bacteria and microorganisms than touchless dispensers that do not have a common touch point.

The touchless feature of touchless paper towel dispensers can help reduce the risk of cross-contamination because users aren''t required to crank or pull a lever that may harbor more bacteria.

Several touchless dispensers also offer one-at-a-time dispensing options and controlled sheet length settings that can help minimize overuse and waste.

When purchasing products or solutions for public areas in commercial buildings, decision-makers should always evaluate the needs and preferences of their tenants.

Researching the capabilities and functionality of a specific product and listening to a user''s preferences can help facility managers determine the best solution for a particular environment.

According to the "Washroom Products Survey," 79 percent of participants preferred touchless towel dispensers to air dryers.

By not offering a drying solution that is preferred by the majority of users, facility managers can create an environment that may deter tenants and guests from properly washing and drying their hands.

Join The Handwashing Movement

Whether it is an office building, hospital or university, facility managers should provide their tenants and guests with restroom solutions that are hygienic, easy to use and efficient.

In the handwashing process, hand drying can be just as important as using clean water and soap.

This final step helps remove the residual water on a person''s hands, minimizing the chance for microorganisms to colonize.

Paper towel dispensers, specifically touchless towel dispensers, have been proven to help reduce cross-contamination in restrooms and decrease the amount of bacteria on a user''s hands.

Vince Rountree is the senior marketing manager for Georgia-Pacific Professional''s Office Building Segment. Rountree has been employed at Georgia-Pacific since 2001 and holds several degrees: A Bachelor of Science (BS) in chemical engineering from Rutgers University and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Emory University''s Goizueta Business School. Rountree has more than 20 years of experience working with consumer paper products and oil and chemical companies. For more information, visit