This Is Why You Should Never Use a Bathroom Hand Dryer

Beware the toilet plume.

When using a public restroom, the widespread belief is that it's more ecologically-friendly and hygienic to use the hand dryer instead of paper towels. But new research suggests the dryer may actually be the worse of the two options, for a really, really, really gross reason.

Every time a lidless toilet flushes, its fecal bacteria shoots into the air, a phenomenon known as the "toilet plume." Now, a new study, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, found that this fecal bacteria gets sucked up into the hand dryer, and back onto your hands.

Which means, yes, all that warm air is saturated with… Let's just stop right here.

To conduct the study, researchers examined 3 bathrooms at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and compared the amount of fecal bacteria in plates exposed air blown out by a hair dryer to those simply left in the bathroom. What they found was that while being exposed to two full minutes in the bathroom yielded an average of fewer than one colony per plate, just 30 seconds under the hair blown out by a hand dryer yielded a horrifying 18-60 colonies of bacteria on average. To make matters worse, the insides of the nozzles themselves also contain minimal amount of bacteria.

"These results indicate that many kinds of bacteria, including potential pathogens and spores, can be deposited on hands exposed to bathroom hand dryers, and that spores could be dispersed throughout buildings and deposited on hands by hand dryers," the authors wrote in the study.

Of course, whether or not to continue using hand dryers depends on how much you're grossed out by this information (similar to whether or not the fact that plastic bottles contain micro-plastics is enough to make you switch to metal bottles forever). To minimize the amount of bacteria they expend, researchers suggested companies fit their dryers with HEPA filters, but, until that happens, you might be better off sticking to paper.

If you do want to help save the environment while also getting a good workout in, why not give the Swedish-imported craze plogging a try?

To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter! 

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more