As disgusting as public bathrooms might be, we all have to use them occasionally — and we all know how good it feels after we wash our hands immediately afterward. But if you use the restroom's automatic hot-air hand dryer after you wash, your poor hands might be left even dirtier than they were before, according to a recent study.
The February 2018 research, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, found that plates exposed to a hand dryer for just 30 seconds gained more bacteria than plates being exposed to simple bathroom air for a full two minutes. How much more? Oh, the plates under the hand dryer gained at least 18 to 60 colonies of bacteria, while the ones exposed to just the air gained fewer than one bacteria colony.
The researchers wrote, "These results indicate that many kinds of bacteria, including potential pathogens and spores, can be deposited on hands exposed to bathroom hand dryers, and that spores could be dispersed throughout buildings and deposited on hands by hand dryers."
So what does this mean for us? At this point, it's still unclear how much of a risk this bathroom bacteria poses to us all. More research is also needed to figure out if the hand dryers actually contained bacteria themselves, or if they simply blew contaminated air. As you may already know, bathroom air alone can contain fecal matter and drops of urine. While the risk of getting sick or infected might not yet be known, one thing's for sure: This is unspeakably gross.
For what it's worth, the study's lead author, Peter Setlow, PhD, told Business Insider that he's stopped using hand dryers completely after completing the research.
"If I'm a person whose immune system is suppressed, I want to minimize my exposure to bacteria," Dr. Setlow, who's in his 70s, said.
"The more air you move? The more bacteria stick," he added. "And there are a lot of bacteria in bathrooms."
You don't have to tell us twice!
While you can't control how clean a public bathroom is, you can control how clean your home is with these simple spring-cleaning hacks:
h/t Washington Post