Hand Dryer Manufacturers Go Head To Head Over Hygiene!

The World’s leading manufacturers of hand dryers had a debate back in 2012 which makes quite interesting reading now. At the time, leading figures from each company were asked to debate the use of HEPA filters and warm air in hand dryers and their effectiveness in achieving greater levels of hand hygiene. We highlight the points made by representatives of the hand dryer manufacturers and then look at the subsequent path they have taken.

At the time of the debate World Dryer Dan Storto, Senior vice president at World Dryer Corp said ‘The use of HEPA filters has been touted by some in the hand dryer industry as more hygienic, however the benefits of a HEPA filter in hand drying have not been established and supported by independent scientific research’ he also went on to say the use of HEPA filters in hand dryers has been more of a marketing strategy for product differentiation than as a proven method of improving hand hygiene’

Interestingly in 2012 World Dryer did not have a ‘hands in’ model similar to the Dyson Airblade or the Mitsubishi Jet Towel, so it must have been will reluctance that they launched the V-Max, a blade style dryer containing a HEPA filter more recently. This was surely recognition that they changed their mind over the HEPA filter or accepted it as a marketing or sales feature?

Hands transfer infection rapidly

Rob Green, an engineer at Dyson argued that ‘No hand drying method kills bacteria. A HEPA filter is the best way for capturing 99.97 percent of bacteria. Warm air hand dryers use 60-year-old technology and rely on evaporation to dry hands. This is slow and uses large amounts of electricity. Our hand dryer uses high-speed sheets of unheated air to dry your hands quickly and as hygienically as paper towels while creating 70 percent less carbon emissions. And without the potential for other hazards such as overflowing bins and clogged toilets.

The Dyson Airblade has been revamped a little since 2012, mainly to try and counter issues with noise. However, they have stuck rigidly to the HEPA based model also used in their Vacuum cleaners.

William Gagon, VP at Excel Dryer makers of the Xlerator states that ‘Proper hand washing hygiene continues to be the most important component in killing bacteria. Doctors at the University of Ottawa have proposed that “the blowing of warm air may lead to an accelerated dehydration of the skin surface, thereby affecting the viability” of the microorganism. Moreover, the warm air may “penetrate all the crevices in the skin, whereas absorbent towels may not reach such areas, even though the skin appears dry” (Ansari et al 248). Hand Dryers are so effective that researchers Meers and Leong have declared that there is “no bacteriological reason to exclude them from the clinical areas” (171). In a published white paper on high speed hand drying, phase 2 is described as the evaporation phase in the drying process whereby evaporation occurs from a heated air stream drying the ‘residual moisture layer’ on a user hands. A heated air stream is needed to accomplish this’. William when questioned on the use of HEPA filters did say ‘HEPA filtration better meets the needs of specialty markets such as healthcare and food processing, but is not imperative for markets with fewer regulatory and compliance guidelines’ This is surely an admission that HEPA filters offer greater levels of hygiene.

Excel Dryer have since launched a new version of their Xlerator that includes a HEPA filter and have removed the heater element.

The eXtremeAir CPC hand dryer is a giant leap forward for public health

So Excel Dryer, World Dryer and Dyson all seemed to now agree that HEPA filters are either a necessary hygiene feature or have a perceived sales/marketing benefit.

Even back in in 2012, a senior representative at American Dryer talks of ‘Venturi effect’ which determines that only a small part of the air going through the dryer is filtered by the HEPA filter. The reason being that the filtered air coming out of the nozzle draws in and mixes with the unfiltered air. The result is that less than 10 percent of the air reaching the users hands is filtered. They go onto to say that ‘HEPA filters are expensive and must be replaced regularly or the dryer will lose power or fail’

American Dryer are the only company not to adopt the HEPA filter and have since launched the eXtremeAir Cold plasma clean hand dryer, which they can independently evidence kills bacteria as the hands are dried. This has really changed the dynamic of the argument and makes some of the earlier comments and subsequent paths their competitors have taken look a little short sighted and lacking in invention!

The use of Cold Plasma technology which actively breaks down surface based and airborne pathogens during the drying process, is not only hugely superior technology from a hygiene perspective, it is also a superior from an environmental and maintenance angle too. The technology is patent pending so it will be interesting to see how many hand dryer manufacturers follow suit and ditch their current path if the patent is not upheld.

*** 2017 update – please note the above information regarding CPC technology was correct at the time and date the post was published.  We are awaiting further guidance from the manufacturer regarding the efficacy of these claims.

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