AIMS: To compare an ultra-rapid hand dryer against warm air dryers, with regard to: (A) bacterial transfer after drying and (B) the impact on bacterial numbers of rubbing hands during dryer use.
METHODS AND RESULTS: The Airblade™ dryer (Dyson Ltd) uses two air 'knives' to strip water from still hands, whereas conventional dryers use warm air to evaporate moisture whilst hands are rubbed together. These approaches were compared using 14 volunteers; the Airblade™ and two types of warm air dryer. In study (A), hands were contaminated by handling meat and then washed in a standardized manner. After dryer use, fingers were pressed onto foil and transfer of residual bacteria enumerated. Transfers of 0-10(7) CFU per five fingers were observed. For a drying time of 10 s, the Airblade™ led to significantly less bacterial transfer than the other dryers (P < 0·05; range 0·0003-0·0015). When the latter were used for 30-35 s, the trend was for the Airblade to still perform better, but differences were not significant (P > 0·05, range 0·1317-0·4099). In study (B), drying was performed ± hand rubbing. Contact plates enumerated bacteria transferred from palms, fingers and fingertips before and after drying. When keeping hands still, there was no statistical difference between dryers, and reduction in the numbers released was almost as high as with paper towels. Rubbing when using the warm air dryers inhibited an overall reduction in bacterial numbers on the skin (P < 0·05).
CONCLUSIONS: Effective hand drying is important for reducing transfer of commensals or remaining contaminants to surfaces. Rubbing hands during warm air drying can counteract the reduction in bacterial numbers accrued during handwashing.
SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: The Airblade™ was superior to the warm air dryers for reducing bacterial transfer. Its short, 10 s drying time should encourage greater compliance with hand drying and thus help reduce the spread of infectious agents via hands.
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