Drying hands as important as washing them

Drying hands as important as washing them

Until you dry your hands thoroughly after each wash, you can't prevent bugs from spreading. Also rubbing your hands whilst using a conventional electric dryer could be a contributing factor, says a study.

Frequently people give up drying their hands and wipe them on their clothes instead, but hand-hygiene is a key part of infection control and drying hands after washing is a very important part of the process.

University of Bradford researchers in Britain looked at different methods of hand drying, and their effect on transfer of bugs from the hands to other surfaces, said a Bradford release.

The different methods included paper towels, traditional hand dryers that rely on evaporation, and a new model of hand dryer, which rapidly strips water off the hands using high velocity air jets, reports the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

Our bodies naturally have bugs called commensals all over them. However, bugs from other sources, such as raw meat, can also survive on hands, and can be easily transferred to other surfaces, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.

When hands are washed, the number of bacteria on the surface of the skin decreases, but they are not necessarily eliminated. If the hands are still damp then these bacteria are more readily transferred to other surfaces.

In this study the researchers quantified the effects of hand drying by measuring the number of bacteria on different parts of the hands before and after different drying methods.

Volunteers were asked to wash their hands and place them onto contact plates which were then incubated to measure bacterial growth. The volunteers were then asked to dry their hands using either hand towels or one of three hand dryers, with or without rubbing their hands together, and levels of bacteria were re-measured.

Anna Snelling of Bradford university and her team found that rubbing the hands together whilst using traditional hand dryers could counteract the reduction in bacterial numbers following handwashing.

The researchers found the most effective way of keeping bacterial counts low, when drying hands, was using paper towels.

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