The risk of contracting Covid-19 should be no greater in the washroom than in any other communal space, suggests a report by leading independent microbiologist Dr David Webber.
His report, commissioned by Oxfordshire-based hand dryer manufacturer Airdri Ltd, seeks to confirm how the virus is transmitted in the washroom environment, and whether warm air hand dryers are safe to use during the pandemic.
Webber’s conclusion, following research into Covid-19 transmission, is that using hand dryers in the washroom does not contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Citing various articles and reports on the spread of microbial contaminants, Webber, technical director at Microbial Innovations Ltd in Derby and formerly a microbiologist at University College of Swansea, confirms that Covid-19 is spread by droplet transmission and contact with contaminated surfaces, but that the risk of contracting the disease should be no greater in the washroom than in any other communal area.
“Droplet transmission of coronavirus in the washroom is unlikely, as the air is constantly changed – typically eight to 12 times per hour, which will remove droplets, as will natural ventilation due to the opening and closing of doors. Many smaller washrooms are also fitted with air purifiers to control odours and remove microbial contaminants”, states the study.
“The risk of infection is probably greater in the general workspace, where coughing and sneezing can release airborne bacteria which can survive up to 15 minutes in droplets and aerosols in the air.”
The report also references the continuing debate on the most hygienic hand drying method. Its findings show that despite claims made by paper towel manufacturers suggesting that hand dryers contribute to the spread of viruses, the reality is that both paper towels and warm air hand dryers are a hygienic way to dry hands.
Webber adds: “In a small washroom, a single operation of a typical hand dryer would only disturb 2-3 per cent of the volume in the air and is unlikely to contribute to the spread of microbes.”
He concludes that the most effective way to reduce the risk of infection in washrooms is to wash and dry hands effectively, using soap and hot water and either paper towels or a hand dryer – backing up the advice issued by the World Health Organization to tackle Covid-19.
Webber suggests the following four-step process to handwashing:
1. Ensure that hands are correctly washed for at least 20 seconds.
2. Dry hands thoroughly (10 seconds of drying with a paper towel or jet air dryer, or up to 40 seconds using a warm air hand dryer).
3. Do not touch any surfaces after drying hands.
4. But if you do touch any surfaces, use a hand sanitiser as soon as possible after leaving the washroom.
Trudi Osborne, Airdri’s marketing manager said: “Since the Covid-19 crisis hit the UK, we have seen many articles questioning the cleanliness of hand dryers and their impact on the spread of the disease in the washroom setting. Therefore, we were keen to secure some hard facts from an expert to confirm our belief that hand dryers are safe to use during the pandemic.”