Hygiene is crucial — these days, no one wants to touch a restroom surface if it''s avoidable.
Luckily, over the last decade, manufacturers have come to market with an array of innovative, hands-free hand dryers, toilets, urinals, sinks, soap dispensers and more.
While hands-free technology in restrooms helps to lessen patrons'' "touch points," it doesn''t always alleviate the health and sanitation concerns associated with their maintenance.
It''s generally accepted that reducing the surface area one must touch in a public restroom will ultimately help prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
But, even with "hands-free" restrooms, frustrated patrons still encounter unsanitary conditions in the form of empty paper towel dispensers, blocked toilets and bacteria-laden refuse on the floors.
Moreover, when a restroom''s paper towel dispensers are empty, patrons are less likely to wash their hands, potentially spreading germs and bacteria to other areas of the restroom such as door handles.
While hand dryers used to have a mixed reputation in the industry, today''s generation of high-speed, energy-efficient (HSEE) hand dryers have made great strides in improving hand dryer function and efficiency and finding a quality model is no longer a difficult task.
With HSEE hand dryers, there''s no waste for anyone to handle and no risk for spreading germs.
Hygiene By Design
While HSEE hand dryers have become a popular hand drying choice in facilities around the world, custodial professionals should research their options carefully as all HSEE hand dryers are not created equal.
Manufacturer designs vary between a "traditional" design approach — with the hands positioned under the air outlet — or a "trough-style" approach where the user puts his or her hands into a trough or enclosure of some sort.
Trough-style designs can collect excess water from the user''s hands in the trough, creating the cool, damp environment bacteria needs to grow — potentially resulting in a hygiene issue.
Even though some trough-style units filter the air that blows out, unless the trough area is free of all excess used water and debris, it is just filtered air blowing into unfiltered — perhaps contaminated — air, which then swirls around the hands as they dry, making it less sanitary than a conventional design.
Additionally, the design of the motion sensor can prevent or create an opportunity for damage from moisture or vandalism — a completely sealed sensor and control assembly defends against both.
Clearing The Air
As HSEE hand dryers have grown in popularity over the last 10 or so years, so have the scare tactics used that tout dryer hygiene as a concern.
Over the last 40 years, numerous scientific researchers have valued the hygienic safety of warm air as a drying medium.
Because the interior of a hand dryer is dry and constantly heated, it creates a very poor environment for the propagation of microorganisms.
In fact, according to the 1990 study by Ansari et al, "Electric air-drying of washed finger pads resulted in the greatest reduction in virus and bacterial levels irrespective of the washing agent used."
The interior of a dryer has bacteria counts two to four times lower than other surfaces in the bathroom, such as sinks, doorknobs and soap dispensers.
The new generation of hands-free, high-speed hand dryers proves to be the leader in efficient, hygienic hand drying and building owners and facility managers can rest assured that HSEE hand dryers are doing their part to keep their patrons'' restroom experience hands-free and healthy.
William Gagnon is the director of marketing for Excel Dryer, manufacturer of the high-speed, energy-efficient XLERATOR hand dryer. XLERATOR works three times faster and uses 80 percent less energy than traditional hand dryers, and delivers a 95 percent cost savings when compared to paper towels. To calculate your facility''s cost savings versus paper towels and reduction in carbon footprint go to our online calculator — exceldryer.com/calculator.php. To learn more about Excel''s peer reviewed Life Cycle Assessment of XLERATOR, visit www.exceldryer.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.