Not drying hands properly 'less hygienic' than not washing them at all - study

During the COVID-19 pandemic, regular hand-washing was a key public health measure to help control the spread of the virus.

But even though many of us are still cautious when it comes to using soap and sanitiser to keep our hands clean, it's probably fair to assume the majority of people don't think too much about how thoroughly they dry their hands.

In light of this rather grim thought, Dr D. L. Webber - an expert in the field of microbiology with over 50 years' experience - has insisted that not drying hands properly after using the bathroom could be almost as bad as not washing them at all.

"Bacteria thrives on damp surfaces. Hands included. There is research to suggest that 85 percent of microbes are transmitted by moist hands, compared with 0.06 percent by dry hands - a potential source of contamination of bacteria and viruses to other people, clothes, and contact surfaces," he noted. 

"Moist hands are also more likely to become contaminated when touching surfaces colonised by potentially pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes - particularly when using the washroom. This demonstrates that not drying hands properly could be less hygienic than not washing them at all.

"The research demonstrated that the transfer of bacteria was directly related to the time and effectiveness of hand drying, the transfer of bacteria progressively decreased as water was removed."

Dr Webber has teamed up with hand dryer manufacturing firm Airdri to identify the distinct hand-drying styles.

These include 'the surgeon' - in which a person is extremely thorough - and the 'paper waster' - someone who grabs a massive stack of paper towels and wipes their hands on perhaps 10 percent of them. There is also the 'one with the soggy trousers', who is guilty of partly drying their hands under the dryer and then proceeding to pat them on their jeans or trousers.

Reflecting on the best and worst hand-washing practices, Dr Webber concluded the ultimate goal is to always leave the washroom with clean, dry hands.

"It's important to spend time and effort to achieve this result - while probably infuriating other washroom users waiting to use the basin and dryers. Others may also leave with clean dry hands, preventing microbial contamination by skin transfer to surfaces they contact - but with hygienic and environmental impacts respectively," he added.

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