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Drying Hands to Prevent Spreading Bacteria this Flu Season

Washing hands has been the key defense against spreading bacteria during flu season, but new research found that drying hands properly is just as important. Rubbing hands together under a hand dryer or not drying hands thoroughly may actually spread more bacteria. In order to prevent spreading bacteria this flu season, it is important to learn the proper way to dry hands after washing.

Bacteria on the Hands

The body naturally carries bacteria called commensals which lie below the surface. When hands rub together during the drying process, this stimulates the bacteria to come to the surface. Even after washing hands, if you rub them together while drying, you will end up with bacteria on the skin. And if the skin is left damp after washing, bacteria on the hands transfer easily to other surfaces. Even if you thought you had cleaned your hands sufficiently, you may still be carrying bacteria and spreading disease.

The Best Way to Dry Hands

Researchers at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom tested the three main ways that people dry their hands after washing. These included using paper towels, a traditional hand dryer and a new type of hand dryer that dries hands rapidly without the need to rub hands. After washing and drying hands with each method, study participants placed their hands onto contact plates that were left to incubate. This way the researchers could measure how much bacteria was left on the hands after each method of drying.

The research found that using paper towels to dry hands thoroughly or using the new style of hand dryer was more effective for decreasing bacteria than rubbing hands under a traditional hand dryer. However, they do concede that the traditional hand dryer would work as long as people didn’t rub their hands and made sure their hands were completely dry.

This flu season the most effective way to ensure you aren’t carrying bacteria on your hands is to make sure you dry them thoroughly after each washing. Equally important is to refrain from rubbing hands together while drying. Keeping hands as clean as possible is the best defense against spreading disease.