If you step into the bathrooms of any of the campus residence halls, you will often see students wiping their hands on their clothes in an attempt to dry them. This is because the bathrooms in the residence halls are not equipped with paper towels or hand dryers.
Many residents may just see this as a nuisance, but a study by the researchers at University of Bradford and published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that “not drying your hands thoroughly after washing them could increase the spread of bacteria.”
According to an article by news-medical.net, the human body carries natural bacteria called commensals. Bacteria from other sources, such as raw meat, can survive on the hands alongside the natural bacteria, and these bacteria from other sources can be transferred to many surfaces, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.
“When hands are washed, the number of bacteria on the surface of the skin decreases, but they are not necessarily eliminated,” according to the article on news-medical.net. “If the hands are still damp, then these bacteria are more readily transferred to other surfaces.”
“I am aware of the issues surrounding hand drying,” Director of Campus Residences Operations John Sparano said. “There is also an argument against the use of high velocity hand blowers, as some may claim they are redistributing bacteria in a bathroom while they’re in use.”
The study done by the researchers at the University of Bradford found that the best way to stop the spread of bad bacteria was by using paper towels when drying hands.
“I think paper towels would be good but I think hand dryers would be annoying because my dorm is right next to the bathroom, so it might be loud at night,” Megan Young, a freshman resident of Keller College, said. Young explained that she and many of the girls she lives with often just wipe their hands on their pants after washing them.
Although Campus Residences has not received any formal complaints, the university has already started to look into the issue.
“We are looking for a unit we feel comfortable with, which will replace paper towel dispensers in all public area bathrooms,” Sparano said.
The public bathrooms, which are located in the lobbies of residence halls and are intended for use by guests, are separate from the bathrooms that residents use in the hallways they live in.
When Sparano was asked why the bathrooms for residents are not provided with paper towels or a hand dryer he said, “Residents are expected to provide their own personal hygiene product and towel.”
“We don’t really care about the paper towels, whenever we go to the bathroom to wash our hands we bring our own hand soap and towels,” Emily Seo, freshman and resident of Greeley College said.
“I cannot speak on behalf of the entire university, as I am responsible for the resident hall facilities only,” Sparano said when asked about the possibility of hand dryers being installed in the future. “We have considered installing hand blowers for several reasons, but have not been comfortable with one model as of yet.”