Washing your hands after using the toilet has been a strict rule that your mother probably drilled into you growing up. It is a clean and healthy way to get rid of germs and stop the spread of them. But according to a new study, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, how you dry your hands after washing them, especially in public restrooms, is where the dangers can be. These days most public bathrooms are fitted with modern hand dryers. These high-powered ‘jet-air’ and warm air hand dryers however are much worse than paper towels when it comes to spreading germs.

The study investigated how these hand dryers spread germs and bacteria in public toilets. They show that both jet and warm air hand dryers can spread bacteria into the air and onto people who use them and those that are near by.

The researchers contaminated hands with a harmless type of bacteria known as Lactobacillus, which is not commonly found in public bathrooms in order to mimic hands that have not been washed properly. By detecting the bacteria in the air only proved that it could have come from the hands been dried. They then collected air samples from around the dryer and at distances of one and two meters away from it.

What the investigation found was that air bacterial counts closer to the jet air dryers were 4.5 times higher than around warm air dryers and a whole 27 times higher when compared to the air around paper towels. The bacteria also persisted well beyond 15 seconds in the air around hand dryers after use. This was found as 48% of the controlled bacteria, Lactobacillus, was collected from the air more than five minutes after drying stopped. Furthermore the bacteria were still detected in the air of the bathroom a whole 15 minutes after drying hands.

“Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it. You may also be splattered with ‘bugs’ from other people’s hands,” says Mark Wilcox, professor at the School of Medicine and leader of the research team. “These findings are important for understanding the ways in which bacteria spread, with the potential to transmit illness and disease.”

If you have a dirty habit of not washing your hands after using the toilet you should check out these other Dirty Habits you could be guilty of and then maybe you will clean your act up. Just imagine all the germs you can get when you shake hands with someone who doesn’t wash theirs? Think about it! Pretty disgusting. Maybe Fist bumping Should Replace The Hand Shake.