Hand-Drying Techniques Don't Affect Bacteria Control
ROCHESTER, MN - While hand washing is the single most important procedure in hospital infection control, how hands are dried after washing has little impact on bacteria reduction, according to a new study by the Mayo Clinic.
The study, which compares four methods of hand drying, concludes there are "no differences" in removing bacteria from washed hands when hands are dried using paper towels, cloth towels, warm forced air, or spontaneous evaporation.
One hundred people participated in the three-month study, which notes that good hand washing involves both washing and drying of hands.
One hand of each subject was contaminated by being placed in a sterile, quart-size re-sealable plastic bag. The hand was then placed in another plastic bag and massaged in phosphate-buffered water. Washing for 30 seconds with Procter & Gamble's non-anti-bacterial soap, Camay, and warm running water was followed by a 10-second rinse with cold water.
Conducted by medical technologist Daniel Gustafson and Franklin Cockerel, III, MD, the study notes that many previous studies have demonstrated the importance of proper hand washing for removing harmful microorganisms. Fewer studies have evaluated the effects of different methods for drying and results have been inconsistent.
The Mayo Clinic study used cloth towels from a rolled dispenser, paper towels from a stack on the sink, warm air from a mechanical dryer and spontaneous, room-air evaporation.
No statistically significant difference between pre-wash and post-dry counts of bacteria when any two methods of drying were compared. However, the warm-air method had the highest average numeric rank.
Although this seems to favor the forced, warm-air method, the difference was not statistically significant.