Wash and dry hands properly - Premium Washroom
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Covid-19 and hand drying

30 Apr 2020
by Neil Ericsson

Both washing and drying your hands correctly is the way forward in our battle against coronavirus outbreak

Ever since the coronavirus surfaced at the beginning of January, governments around the world have been on high alert. In both Belgium and the Netherlands, the number of infected people is also rising. Often, approaches that are scientifically based are eclipsed by misinformation and hear-say. Which information should we trust, and more particularly: what can we do ourselves? The simplest piece of advice turns out to be the best: wash your hands more often and correctly. However, effectively drying your hands, using for instance paper towels or a high-quality hand dryer, is an oft-forgotten step, the importance of which should not be underestimated.

As Premium Washroom offers sanitary solutions and hygiene is one of our main concerns, we would like to inform you on how to best guarantee the recommended hygiene levels, especially in times of a global pandemic, in what follows below. 

How does the coronavirus spread?

Research carried out, among others, by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the coronavirus (Covid-19) is spread through respiratory droplets. In other words: the virus is only passed on from person to person through the droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Recent studies found that the virus travels along with coughed-up droplets that are larger than 5 up to 10 microns in diameter (equal to 0.001 mm). These fall down quickly and, this way, end up on the surfaces that surround us.

The Dutch Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu announced that the droplets have a reach of about two metres; the virus is unable to ‘travel’ any further. Moreover, there is no proof that the virus can remain airborne for longer periods of time, nor that it can be spread via the air we breathe. This means that the coronavirus cannot be transmitted through heating systems and air conditioning. The World Health Organization confirms that only people who inhale those droplets or ingest the virus after inadequate hand-washing, can be contaminated.

How can we prevent the coronavirus from spreading?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent the coronavirus. It is therefore imperative that we take preventative measures against an outbreak. Medical professionals and governments correctly emphasise that hygiene is key in our battle against Covid-19, and they specifically refer to the importance of practicing good hand hygiene. Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water proves to be one of the most efficient ways to protect both ourselves and others. However, if this process is not carried out in the right way, it will not have the intended effect. Even the efficacy of alcohol-based hand sanitizers is significantly reduced if you do not wash your hands first, according to Marcel Zwietering, professor of Nutritional Microbiology at Wageningen University & Research.

What is generally missing from news coverage is the fact that drying your hands correctly is equally important. Hand drying, however, is associated with a number of risks concerning recontamination. After all, wet or damp hands are breeding grounds for bacteria and are able to spread up to no less than a thousand times more bacteria on surfaces they come into contact with. For that reason, the world’s leading international health organisations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stipulate we dry our hands using paper towels or a jet hand dryer.
Are electric jet hand dryers safe to use during the coronavirus outbreak?

When going to the bathroom, people tend to touch several soiled surfaces, both before and after washing their hands: from opening the stall door, turning the faucet on and off to touching the hand towel roll dispenser, paper towels or the on/off button of a hand dryer. Each one of these surfaces can be contaminated with bacteria.

Considering the coronavirus in particular is spread through touch and most jet hand dryers are fully automatic and operated completely touch-free, you can avoid unnecessary – hence risky - contact. When using paper towels, the risk of passing on the coronavirus through physical contact is increased. A regular towel or a hand towel roll cannot be considered safe alternatives, seeing you could still be contaminated with bacteria from other users.

Some jet hand dryers care equipped with a HEPA filter, which ensures that almost all bacteria are removed from the air before they dry your hands. This way, up to 99.97 percent of all particles are filtered out before the air touches your hands. Partly for that reason, modern hospitals have been installing these types of jet hand dryers. In fact, hand dryers with HEPA filters are installed in the ‘disinfection tunnels’ in the hospitals in China, including the Shenyang Infectious Disease Hospital, purposely built for the treatment for corona patients.

HACCP International, a leading organisation in food technology, has awarded a number of electrical hand dryers with a hygiene certificate. The HACCP certificate guarantees these devices adhere to the highest standards concerning hand hygiene. As locations where food is prepared are under constant threat of contamination, it makes perfect sense to install hand dryers with this certificate there.

Although some studies have claimed that hand dryers can spread bacteria and viruses, these allegations have been disproven. The researchers leading these studies - which were, incidentally, funded by the paper industry - did not rely on any trustworthy methods to simulate a realistic setting. Therefore, this research lacks a sound scientific basis to support the claim that jet hand dryers equipped with a HEPA filter are unhygienic or spread bacteria and viruses.

There is no question about it: hygiene should be top of mind in the battle against the coronavirus. Washing your hands and – remember – drying them thoroughly afterwards, using either paper towels or the right hand dryer, is the number one recommendation when it comes to preventing further contamination.

At Premium Washroom, you can find all products you and your business need to assist you in maintaining the highest hygiene standards for your customers, employees and visitors.

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