We have all had to use public restrooms and more than likely, we all hate the experience. The simple thought of picking up germs is something each of us has to deal with every single time we enter a public restroom. The most common habits are to enter the restroom without touching where others have touched, avoid anything commonly used in the restroom, wash our hands, and exit by not touching the door handle. Most readers will be surprised to find out where the highest counts of bacteria actually live and how they can be spread.
Most of us have been misled by paper towel manufacturer funded studies that paper towels are more sanitary than hand dryers. Now this article is not really about hand dryers vs. paper towels so we won’t go down that road. The debate will live forever. And the truth is, because of the false understandings, most people prefer paper towels still. But let’s just present two quick facts and then move away from this debatable topic.
The first fact being today’s hand dryer technology is far superior than it was in the past. For example, ProDryers offers the American Dryer ExtremeAir CPC which kills just about all bacteria. Yes, you heard that correctly. The CPC hand dryer has been independently proven to kill E.coli, C.diff, Staph, MRSA, and Salmonella. It has not been tested for bacteria such as Ebola yet. There is a high probability that it will kill most bacteria as it basically converts air to cold plasma. Using ionized air that contains positively and negatively charged molecules that attract and kill germs, it results in the by-product of pure water vapor. Cold plasma is commonly used in hospitals to treat surgical wounds and prevent bacteria. It’s also used in the food industry. This technology has recently been introduced, and not a minute too soon as we battle the spread of bacteria inside and outside public restrooms. This hand dryer uses cold plasma technology that cracks bacteria open like an eggshell and literally creates a sanitized bubble of clean air. The result is nearly all bacteria is killed and hands are sanitized upon exit of the restroom which greatly cuts down on the spread of germs.
The second fact is many studies have recently been introduced that prove bacteria actually lives on paper towel. You can find many forms of bacteria on both virgin paper towel and recycled paper towel. Damp paper towel will have much more bacteria present, but even unused paper towel may have bacteria waiting to jump onto your hands. Doing a quick Google search on “bacteria lives on paper towel” will prove this point with reputable studies.
So where are the hot spots for bacteria in a public restroom? Surprisingly, hand dryers do not normally contain much bacteria unless they are push-buttons. We know paper towel dispensers contain fair bacteria counts. But one of the largest breeding grounds for bacteria in a restroom is at the sink. At all costs, avoid touching the counter-tops and sink area. Many people believe the most contaminated areas would be the toilet seats. Not the case. Although the thought of public toilet seats is gut wrenching, it’s not highly probable to pick up diseases and bacteria from toilet seats in general. Of course if urine has hit the seat, that would elevate the bacteria count. But the most dangerous point of using the restroom is when the toilet is flushed. Bacteria basically waits until the toilet bowl is empty and at it’s driest point, and then the bacteria jumps out in a mist where germs from urine and feces can be ingested. It is strongly advised to cover your mouth and nose when flushing and exit the stall as quickly as possible. And remember, the American Dryer ExtremeAir CPC will kill not only germs and sanitize the air around you, it will also kill odors. This is just another reason why all facilities should consider the cold plasma clean hand dryer.
So how do we avoid pickling up germs since we know all public restrooms have bacteria waiting for us? Most restrooms today do not have fully automatic, touch-less technology throughout the restroom. Automatic faucets help greatly to reduce the spread of germs, but one piece of touch-less technology cannot do the job alone. Our restrooms today should focus on as much touch-less, hands-off technology as possible. Automatic flush valves, sensor operated faucets, touch-less soap dispensers and infrared activated hand dryers should all be used. However, our best bet to avoid bacteria is to avoid touching items we really don’t need to touch. For example, when entering the restroom, use your shoe to push open the door. If a door must be pulled to open it, then use a napkin or the end of your sleeve to protect your hand. Try touching on the handle where most people would not touch, like the very top. Another good strategy is to follow somebody else in so you can avoid touching the handle altogether. While inside the restroom, cover the toilet seat if you must sit down with toilet seat covers or toilet paper. But keep in mind, toilet paper dispensers are often harboring plenty of germs. Some restrooms have toilet seat cover dispensers, but to be honest, not many. When flushing the toilet, use your shoe if the flush valve is not automatic. Remember to cover your mouth and nose and exit the stall as quickly as possible. When washing hands, spend at least 30 seconds scrubbing thoroughly. Remember to scrub under the finger nails and between fingers. Friction will also kill off germs so wash with intent to harm these little bugs. Avoid touching the faucets. Manual faucets should be touched in areas of the faucet handle where others would not normally touch it. Consider using a paper towel to turn on the faucet. Although we know bacteria lives on paper towel, the faucet has a much higher bacteria count. Using paper would be better than touching the faucet with your bare hand. Upon exit, look for an automatic hand dryer. It’s much more hygienic than a paper towel dispenser. If you are lucky, the hand dryer will be HEPA filtered or utilize cold plasma like the ExtremeAir CPC. Upon exiting the restroom, try not to touch the door handle. This is pretty much common knowledge. Although we know bacteria lives on paper towel, it would be better to use paper towel to open the door if not other way exists as the door handle will likely have a fair bacteria count.