Hospitality businesses know all about hygiene. Any establishment that operates a kitchen and serves food is well used to complying with the strict HAACP regulations on food safety.
Another hygiene hotspot is, of course, the washroom. While there is not exactly a direct equivalent to HAACP rules for restaurant, hotel and bar bathrooms, certain standards do apply to all public and workplace conveniences. One example is the requirement to provide and maintain bins for sanitary waste.
Arguably just as important a consideration for hospitality businesses is customer perception. A messy, unclean washroom leads people to make assumptions about hygiene standards in the rest of the business, including in the kitchen.
One question many business owners ask themselves is – what is the most hygienic hand drying solution for my washrooms? Provision of good hand hygiene facilities is both essential for ensuring staff maintain the highest standards, and also for leaving customers with the right impression.
Hot air over hand dryer hygiene
A debate over the two main options – hot air hand dryers and paper towels – has in the past been flamed by lurid press headlines about the unsanitary nature of hand dryer machines. Claiming to be based on scientific research, we’ve seen reports that suggest hand dryers are less effective at drying than towels, leaving damp hands a breeding ground for germs.
There have also been concerns about the contact needed to start old fashioned dryers, and even that hot jets from dryers spread bacteria by blasting them into the air.
Most such claims miss out on an essential fact – hand drying is not the most important step in hand sanitation. If hands are washed inadequately, meaning that germs and bacteria remain on wet hands when they are dried, the drying process itself is not likely to improve the situation.
The argument about contact with an appliance no longer applies, as modern washroom hand dryers are touchless, i.e. activated by a motion sensor. The idea that wiping off germs with a paper towel is preferable to blowing them into the air also does not follow. Used damp towels themselves create a contact issue, especially if you have a waste bin with a lid.
As many proprietors know, towels also have a nasty habit of ending up on the washroom floor.
Commenting on concerns about hand dryer hygiene, the NHS makes the point that good sanitation depends more on the habits of individuals than the means of drying provided. Thorough hand washing followed by thorough drying will help control the spread of germs, whichever method is used. All hospitality businesses can do is provide appropriate means.
Accepting that, there are two arguments for recommending hand dryers over paper towels. One is something already alluded to, the tendency of used towels ending up anywhere but the bin. Even a few loose towels on the floor can create the wrong impression about standards of cleanliness in your establishment.
Second, hand dryers are far better for the environment than paper towels, which create large volumes of rubbish destined for landfill. Hand dryers also demand little maintenance beyond regular cleaning, no need to refill and no need to dispose of waste.
Given that there is little basis for the argument that paper towels are more hygienic, business owners might as well base their decision on other factors.
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