Beloved TV character Sheldon Cooper from the hit show The Big Bang Theory has been the center of much controversy throughout the show’s twelve-year run. Being the quirky little fellow that he is, some of Cooper’s tendencies are just plain weird. But where hand driers in the bathroom are concerned, Sheldon might have been on to something.
See, the problem stems from the fact that many people don’t properly wash their hands. To really get rid of bacteria that are chilling out on your hands, you need to use soap, rinse your hands properly, and wash your hands for at least fifteen seconds. Many people skip on at least one of these points. As a result, when hand dryers are used, germ residue is blown around the bathroom and near the vicinity. In fact, some research revealed that in particularly dirty restrooms, people had more bacteria left on their hands after using the dryer than before. Point to Sheldon!
In spaces where hygiene is of particular concern, like healthcare facilities, keeping hand dryers in the restrooms is discouraged, yet again hinting to some truth behind Cooper’s claim. While some studies revealed that paper towels decreased the amount of bacteria on subjects’ hands, a couple of others revealed hand dryers to do the same.
So, while a fair deal of scientific effort has been directed towards trying to figure out how hygienic, or unhygienic, hand dryers are, things are still a little unclear. Our advice? If you walk into a public restroom that doesn’t look like it is frequently cleaned, then maybe go for the paper towels. Or, you know, find a cleaner restroom!