Thursday, 22 August 2013


We were just sitting here pouring whisky into our tea and pondering the nature of the Universe ("fucked" was the general consensus) when it arrived - wham! bam! thank you, ma'am! Like a gun fight in a Clint Eastwood movie: not entirely unexpected, but featuring plenty of tense moments and squinting. In other words, we received an email from Tudor Friend, with pictures of air dryers!

First of all, let's revisit a video from a previous post:

Sheldon's petulant rant pretty much sums up our view of hand dryers. We've read enough accounts of the ravages of the bubonic plague to have developed a special, fenced-off area in our mind with a large sign planted in the grass saying, "DANGER: PLAGUE. YOU CATCH IT OFF DIRTY PEOPLE WHO SNEEZE INTO THEIR HANDS". We don't like other people, as a rule, and we like other people's diseases even less.

Now, let's hear what Tudor Friend has to say!
If this comes through - and I'm not holding my breath - it is, theoretically, pictures from my recent trip to Cornwall. My mum is obsessed with all things gardening, so we went to Eden Project, the big geodesic domes of rain forest and Mediterranean climate plants. Since its whole raison d'etre is promoting ecological awareness and responsibility, I was not entirely surprised to find that its bathroom held a Wall O' Hand-driers, running from the least environmentally friendly to the most. And what did my brain immediately say? "[The Privy Counsel!]" of course! (If I ever have to do a Rorschach or one of those associative games, you have officially buggered up some psych researcher's results!) So I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to photograph them, hampered by the fact that it was school hols, so there were *tons* of people, spawn in tow, there... And every single brat had to try every. Single. Drier. So the photos are a bit blurred, as I'm trying to shoot them over running-around-rodentia (who are not on leashes but should be). Hopefully they came out all right, and the information panels are legible enough to be read!
In our more militant moments we also believe that society would be immeasurably improved if more children were kept on leashes, but that's not the subject of today's blog post. Enough ranting, and let us see the pictures! we hear you bellow, and quite justifiably. Right-ho:

The different kinds of dryers in the Eden Project toilets

Extolling the virtues of the eco-friendly ones

We've mentioned the Dyson once or twice before

Is it just our dirty minds, or does the Biodrier logo look like the Durex one?

So are the eco-friendly air-dryers really better than paper towels? Well, it depends on how you look at it. Slate tells us that:
The vast majority of a dryer's environmental toll stems from the electricity it requires; a typical warm-air dryer uses around 2,200 watts of power when switched on, plus about 2 watts while in standby mode. If you dry your hands for 30 seconds (as opposed to the 43 seconds required to get them fully water-free), then you're using about 0.018 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Do that three times a day for a year, and your insistence on dry-hand decorum has run you 19.71 kWh of electricity, which translates into roughly 26.61 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
The informative text continues:
These complications, however, pale in comparison with those that bedevil the life-cycle assessment of paper towels. The main problem here is that there's so much variation in how rolls are produced, starting with how the trees are harvested. The vast majority of American paper towels begin life in well-managed commercial timberlands, where trees are replaced after harvest, so deforestation isn't a pressing issue. But one must account for the fossil fuels expended on machinery and log transport. Then there is the energy-intensiveness of the pulping process, which can result in the emission of harmful pollutants into nearby waterways. One must also consider the cost of trucking the towels from manufacturer to client, a data point that will vary widely according to the restroom's distance from the paper mill.

Then there's the hygiene aspect. There are plenty of articles on the inter-ma-net quoting figures on exactly how efficient air-dryers are at spraying you with bacteria (sign in head: "OTHER PEOPLE'S BACTERIA"), but we'll stick to the non-sensationalist attitude of that confidence-inspiring organisation, the NHS, which says, quoting the original study cited by a sensation-seeking newspaper:

This review suggests that paper towels are the best option for settings where containing infections is critical, and may be more effective than hot air dryers. However, if you have no choice – as is the case in most public toilets and workplace washrooms – and only hot air dryers are provided, take extra time to dry your hands thoroughly. There is little evidence that they are any worse than hand towels, other than the extra time spent drying your hands.

(Refresh your memory of how to wash your hands, NHS-style, here.)

But we WANT sensationalism, we hear you cry. Alright, then. Hold onto your hats and whisky glasses. According to one study, blowing hot air on your hands can "increase the number of germs by an astonishing 255 per cent".

255 per cent. Fucking hell. If you must sneeze in our presence, please, for the love of all the things that make life worth living - alcohol, cheese, and Youtube clips of people falling on their arses - do it into a hanky, or your sleeve. And wash your hands. Also, and here's a piece of gratis health advice from your favourite Counsel: You can never use too much garlic. Or whisky. Hic.

Handwashing. Here's how we do it.

Related Reading
Handwashing Extravaganza
A Semi-Intellectual Treat
Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Toilet-Roll Holders (But Were Afraid to Ask)
Worcester Cathedral - Revisiting Sacred Ground
How Clean Is Your Phone?
Laudable hygiene awareness at the University of York:
Let's Get Medieval: The King's Manor

One final treat: a cheerful hand-washing demonstration (incorporating, we note, the advice "dry your hands with a paper towel").

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