Better use your towels, hoopy froods
April 9, 2018 6:38 AM   Subscribe

The research findings largely square with other data showing that hot-air dryers and jet dryers can launch and disperse germs from hands into the air and onto surfaces—essentially setting off a very dirty bathroom bomb. But the new study clearly demonstrates that the less powerful hot-air dryers can also bathe hands with germs already swirling in the wash room. Hot-air dryers suck in nasty bathroom bacteria and shoot them at your hands. [Ars Technica]
posted by Juso No Thankyou (121 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is no good solution for this. Paper towels at scale are harmful to the environment because they eat up resources and produce trash. Also, in high traffic areas, the paper towels run out and there is nothing with which to dry your hands. On the other hand, this study. I'm skeptical about the hot air dryers blowing germs off of your hands into the air since you have, ostensibly, just washed your hands with soap and water and they should be clean. Certainly the low-power dryers are terrible, and the Dyson Airblades have weird moldy cesspools at the bottom. But the Xcelerator dryers work great, and all that should be blown off of my hand is water. If there are flying poop particles in the air, isn't everyone at risk of getting hit by one whether or not it is sucked through a dryer?

TL;DR: This article reads like a scare piece.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:48 AM on April 9, 2018 [22 favorites]


Mythbusters tested this in 2013.
posted by fairmettle at 6:53 AM on April 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


Is there any way to sanitize cloth towels on a roll, like the old fashioned towel dispensers used to have? I don't know enough (any) science, but surely, tech could get to the place where that could be possible? Probably prohibitively expensive, but for, say, "green" offices, it might be an invention worth looking into?
posted by xingcat at 6:54 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm skeptical about the hot air dryers blowing germs off of your hands into the air since you have, ostensibly, just washed your hands with soap and water and they should be clean.

That's a lot of faith in humanity, there. I see people just sort of splashinf a bit of tap water quickly on their hands on lieu of a proper hand wash all the time, and that's in the ladies'.

There is no good solution for this.

Yes there is, do what I do: shake off excess water in the sink, then dab your hands on your trousers. Your trousers and hands will both be damp, but that'll sort itself out fairly quickly anyway.

The above habit may have been honed on years of gig venue toilet use, where you're lucky if the doors lock and there's toilet paper, and things like a way to dry your hands are laughably unlikely to exist.
posted by Dysk at 6:54 AM on April 9, 2018 [25 favorites]


From the Mythbusters bit:

"In a preliminary test, Adam and Jamie found that washing their hands properly with soap did not leave behind enough bacteria for them to count, so in the remaining tests, participants only used water to wash their hands."

The takeaway there is that the problem is not the dryers, it is the people who don't properly wash their hands in the first place.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:58 AM on April 9, 2018 [62 favorites]


Worse than having no way to dry your hands is the 99% likelihood of having no way to exit the fucking bathroom without touching a door handle, thus turning the whole sink, soap, hot water, paper towels, hot-air dryer performance into "sanitation theatre."
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:00 AM on April 9, 2018 [63 favorites]


I don't understand why all public toilets don't have doors you can just push open from the inside with a foot or elbow (if they even have doors).
posted by Dysk at 7:03 AM on April 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


We're surrounded by microorganisms all the time. There are roughly as many bacteria inside our own bodies as there are human cells. Hand-drying techniques are going to pretty low on the list of things that spread disease.

I'm not sure the paranoia about doorknobs and such things is really warranted. I mean, you probably touch stuff other people have touched all the time. Some of you probably even have cats in your houses.
posted by pipeski at 7:07 AM on April 9, 2018 [44 favorites]


It's not about touching stuff other people have touched, it's about touching stuff other people have just transferred their literal shit to. Again, public toilets attract the worst its humanity: assume the person who walked about before you didn't wash after 'wiping' with their bare hands, and you'd be spot on correct an appreciable fraction of the time.
posted by Dysk at 7:09 AM on April 9, 2018 [11 favorites]


I don't understand why all public toilets don't have doors you can just push open from the inside with a foot or elbow

I asked an architect about this once. He said this:
The issue is most likely rooted in the fact that you're not allowed to have a restroom door swing (or any door swing) protrude into a hallway, and restrooms are often located right on a hallway. So you have to build an extra vestibule-like space immediately outside of the restroom doors if you want them to swing outward.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:10 AM on April 9, 2018 [32 favorites]


We're surrounded by microorganisms all the time. There are roughly as many bacteria inside our own bodies as there are human cells. Hand-drying techniques are going to pretty low on the list of things that spread disease.

Yeah, so on one hand I'm not so hot on fecal particles, on the other hand the dose makes the poison, right? Are tiny fecal particles in this concentration actually dangerous?

, it's about touching stuff other people have just transferred their literal shit to.

Two solutions:

1 - some bathroom have a waste can by the door so you pull the handle with your damp paper towel, hold it with your foot, discard the towel and go. No direct contact.

2 - some bathroom doors have foot-pulls on them.
posted by GuyZero at 7:14 AM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


Wait but don't many auto-open/button-press individual handicapped restrooms have a swing open door though? If the door opened into the restroom instead of out into the hallway then someone in a wheelchair would get smacked in the face by the door unless the restroom was tremendous, and they often are not.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:17 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


Take that Mr. Dyson Smarty Pants.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:18 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


The issue is most likely rooted in the fact that you're not allowed to have a restroom door swing (or any door swing) protrude into a hallway

Everything I can find about UK building regs suggests the opposite - that bathroom doors must swing outwards, to facilitate disabled access. Hard to find anything definitive for public restrooms, mind. But YMMV depending on your jurisdiction.
posted by Dysk at 7:18 AM on April 9, 2018


I don't worry too much about the germs on the door, hard surface (like a metal doorhandle) is one of the least hospitable places for bacteria to live. We can't prevent exposure to germs.

I'm OK with paper towels but they are wasteful, messy (people take too much, don't throw them away carefully, bin often overflowing), and if white ones are used, waste of water for the bleaching process (which is unnecessary). Also many places that use them stock towels that are nigh waterproof, they won't absorb a damn thing.

AirBlades are fine by me and I prefer them. If your hands are truly clean, they work the best and don't spray germs all over.

The Xcelerator ones are not as good, but they do a great job of being about 10 decibels louder than a jet engine. They used to scare the shit out of my kid, they were so loud. And they blow a lot of air but don't dry as quickly as the Dysons do, which probably ends up using more energy.

The old-school hot air dryers? Yeah, wipe hands on pants is faster.

I kinda miss the old towel rolls. So long as you can pull it to a dry spot, they worked better than anything and didn't clog the garbage can.

The greenest method of course is to take a hand towel with you everywhere, but then you look like a weirdo.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:19 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


Previously.
posted by chavenet at 7:24 AM on April 9, 2018


The greenest method of course is to take a hand towel with you everywhere, but then you look like a weirdo.

I think you mean that you look like a hoopy frood.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:26 AM on April 9, 2018 [49 favorites]


Is there any way to sanitize cloth towels on a roll, like the old fashioned towel dispensers used to have?

Yeah, there is. You run the roll of towels through an industrial washing machine, like the folks who supplied and maintained the old fashioned towel dispensers used to do.
posted by flabdablet at 7:30 AM on April 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


Seriously what’s not to like about being one hoopy frood? We’ve already got our guides (iPhones)
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:31 AM on April 9, 2018 [6 favorites]



Worse than having no way to dry your hands is the 99% likelihood of having no way to exit the fucking bathroom without touching a door handle, thus turning the whole sink, soap, hot water, paper towels, hot-air dryer performance into "sanitation theatre."


this is why i do my best howard hughes and once hands dry....

1) if using paper towel, use that to open the door handle before chucking the now used towel back into the hopefully well positioned trash bin...
or
2) bend over, grab untucked shirt to open door looking like a crouching freak. works best when someone is coming in to the bathroom and you look like you havent finished taking a crap on your way out....
posted by lalochezia at 7:31 AM on April 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


There is no good solution for this.

Yes there is, do what I do: shake off excess water in the sink, then dab your hands on your trousers. Your trousers and hands will both be damp, but that'll sort itself out fairly quickly anyway
.

Seriously, this. Everything else is amateur hour sanitation theater. Unless you work at a daycare or you're heading into surgery, the cleanest spot on your clothing is probably exactly as clean as you need your hands to be. And a much better bet than an air dryer.

Also! If you can't shove your way out with an elbow or a foot, just use your sleeve, a pocket, or your skirt to touch the door handle so you don't have to.
posted by witchen at 7:33 AM on April 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


I am skeptical, given my experience, of any disease risk from washroom use.

Years of public washroom use: Hardly any diseases.
Daughter enters kindergarten: All the plagues of civilization.
posted by clawsoon at 7:35 AM on April 9, 2018 [92 favorites]


And another thing, while we're at it: I hate bathroom stalls with inward-swinging doors so much. SO MUCH. Especially if the toilet inside is an automatic flusher, because they always flush way too hard and I can feel drops landing on my body as I'm trying to exit. Also because I'm a medium-sized adult and I can't get in and out of a stall without touching something inside. And my goal is to touch nothing inside.

Why can't public bathrooms be designed so that all stall doors swing out, not in? Is this some more ridiculous bs done in the name of fire safety?
posted by witchen at 7:36 AM on April 9, 2018 [6 favorites]




Is there a German word for that moment of confusion in a public restroom when you can't tell whether someone's a germophobe or just really scared of doorhandles?
posted by pipeski at 7:40 AM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Is there any way to sanitize cloth towels on a roll, like the old fashioned towel dispensers used to have?

Yeah, there is. You run the roll of towels through an industrial washing machine, like the folks who supplied and maintained the old fashioned towel dispensers used to do.


These can still be commonly found, at least in Finland, and yes, they are as great as advertised.
posted by myotahapea at 7:41 AM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


if using paper towel, use that to open the door handle before chucking the now used towel back into the hopefully well positioned trash bin

So many people do this where I work that the door handle is constantly, thoroughly wiped by those exiting. So I just use my hands.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:44 AM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]



So many people do this where I work that the door handle is constantly, thoroughly wiped by those exiting. So I just use my hands.


HA! to penalise you freeloaders, we use the side of the towel that we aren't touching and that we are opening the door with for....unsanitary purposes.
posted by lalochezia at 7:47 AM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Guys who use the soles of their shoes to push the flush handle on standing urinals are cancer. That is all.
posted by zippy at 7:51 AM on April 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


But if you think I'm touching the handle of a manual flush crapper with anything OTHER than my shoe you're absolutely insane.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:57 AM on April 9, 2018 [8 favorites]


Copper or silver bathroom fixtures would take care of most bacteria.

Something I've always found interesting about the USA. One is forced to display one's baked body and bodily functions when one would prefer privacy (school and gym locker rooms, bathroom stalls with giant gaps arround the too short door), but one is punished for displaying one's baked body and bodily functions when one wants to (get put in sexual offenders regsitry for taking a leak outdoors, when the only one that saw you is the cop that caught you, all the places with anti topless laws).
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


Worse than having no way to dry your hands is the 99% likelihood of having no way to exit the fucking bathroom without touching a door handle, thus turning the whole sink, soap, hot water, paper towels, hot-air dryer performance into "sanitation theatre."

Why this is one of the best inventions ever. Whenever I see it I am so happy I frequent an establishment run by people who pay attention to the little things.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:03 AM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


deeply hilarious previously

"I wash my hands before I touch my dick."
posted by leotrotsky at 8:06 AM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd like the Dyson and forced air ones better if they weren't like 150 decibels. Those air things are terrible. If you are deaf, you won't be able to hear the germs sneak up on you.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:07 AM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


Especially if the toilet inside is an automatic flusher, because they always flush way too hard and I can feel drops landing on my body as I'm trying to exit.

Lid down before flushing. Not sure where or why I picked up this habit, but it's pretty ingrained in me now anyway.
posted by Dysk at 8:09 AM on April 9, 2018


Especially if the toilet inside is an automatic flusher, because they always flush way too hard and I can feel drops landing on my body as I'm trying to exit.

....Ever had an automatic flusher flush on you while you were still....engaged in activity? That's fun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:10 AM on April 9, 2018 [16 favorites]


Lid down before flushing: always, everywhere that that's an option. But these toilets don't have lids. It's fucked up!
posted by witchen at 8:12 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


The greenest method of course is to take a hand towel with you everywhere, but then you look like a weirdo.

I think you mean that you look like a hoopy frood.


The second commenter (EmpressCallipygos ) is, of course, 100% correct. I keep a bandana in my back pocket for drying my hands when the building only supplies hot air blowers because UGH.

(Also, the purchase helped support the totally awesome Ely Folk School!)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:14 AM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't think I've ever seen an automatic-flushing toilet with a lid. Frankly, I'm not sure I can remember the last time I saw any model of public toilet with a lid at all. Which, yes, considering the studies about how flushing without the lid on sprays germs everywhere, gives me hella heebie-jeebies. Then combine that with the tiny stalls and the inward-opening doors... yeah, no.
posted by inconstant at 8:15 AM on April 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


But if you think I'm touching the handle of a manual flush crapper with anything OTHER than my shoe you're absolutely insane.

Which leads every non-shoe flusher to, in effect, touch the floor of the bathroom, you monster. It’s like the tragedy of the commons, except instead of sheep and grass, it’s whiz and ass.

(This may be a terrible analogy)
posted by zippy at 8:15 AM on April 9, 2018 [17 favorites]


But if you think I'm touching the handle of a manual flush crapper with anything OTHER than my shoe you're absolutely insane.

You're literally about to wash your hands I do not get this level of fussiness in a functioning human adult.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:16 AM on April 9, 2018 [20 favorites]


Uh, yeah, this is why god gave us pants.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:20 AM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


This really makes me feel a lot better about just using my shirt to dry my hands 9 times out 10. It may make me look like a slob temporarily but I'm a slob who washed her hands.
posted by jenjenc at 8:21 AM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm skeptical about the hot air dryers blowing germs off of your hands into the air since you have, ostensibly, just washed your hands...

You're skeptical about something not at issue here. The thing being discussed is dryers blowing germs onto your hands. This may not be a real issue when you consider that any germs the dryer collects from the air are also being collected by your nose.

I would like to see a comparison of the environmental impacts of paper towels vs. electric dryers.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:25 AM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


I keep a bandana in my back pocket for drying my hands when the building only supplies hot air blowers because UGH.

I used to do this, carrying my lucky hiking bandana in my back pocket. Then I learned about handkerchief code. And, of course, my lucky bandana is brown.

I'll just wipe my hands on my pants, thanks.
posted by SPrintF at 8:38 AM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


Look, the door handle is not the problem. Your belt buckle is the problem. The order of operations is wipe, belt buckle and pants, exit stall, wash hands, and since I figured that out I’ve been way less concerned about the door handles.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:48 AM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


You're literally about to wash your hands I do not get this level of fussiness in a functioning human adult.

You're about to wash your hands, too, what do you care how I flush the toilet? Unless.... unless you weren't planning on washing your hands? [ screams like a bane sidhe ]

RE lids, yeah, lids on crappers are not a thing in most public washrooms. It's scary enough lifting up the seat so I can whizz in a modicum of privacy without creating an abstract in pale yellow for the next person to come along. And, yeah, I'll lift the seat with my toe.

Look all I want out of a public washroom is a reasonably clean fixture, a door so I can have a tiny bit of privacy, a sink with hot water and soap, and a way to return to common space without having to touch anything with my hands after I've cleaned them. That's it!
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:05 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


As someone who has worked in a grocery store, I've witnessed multiple customers do the 2 second splash your hands with water technique or fail to wash their hands at all. Wash your produce, people.
posted by littlesq at 9:08 AM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


The greenest method of course is to take a hand towel with you everywhere, but then you look like a weirdo.

So, I did this while I was in Japan, because a lot of restrooms (at least the ones in the parks and such) there have neither paper towels nor hot air dryers. I didn't see anybody else drying their hands with their own towels, but nobody looked at me funny for it either.

Regardless, I'm not going to pay attention to any of these studies until one confirms actual disease transmission rather than just doing bacterial counts under artificial conditions.

Then I learned about handkerchief code.

The handkerchief code isn't a real thing that anybody takes seriously. Source: I've been carrying various colours of bandana in my back pocket for well over a decade, and the only people who have given me any shit about the "handkerchief code" have been people on the internet.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:12 AM on April 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


Take that Mr. Dyson Smarty Pants.

Wrong. Dyson is "The Fastest, Most Hygienic Hand Dryer", as printed on the device itself. Who does that sort of boasting remind us of? Everybody thinks so. Believe me.
posted by kurumi at 9:12 AM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


(I mean, I've even worn my handkerchief in actual gay bars and nothing came of it. Maybe I'm just spectacularly unattractive, but it seems way more likely that the whole "code" thing is just bullshit.)
posted by tobascodagama at 9:14 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


Regardless, I'm not going to pay attention to any of these studies until one confirms actual disease transmission rather than just doing bacterial counts under artificial conditions.

For serious. Just freaking out about "bacteria" is about as scientifically valid as freaking out about "chemicals."
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:19 AM on April 9, 2018 [15 favorites]


Stainless steel door handles don't support germs very well. I wash my have with soap, shake off water, wore them on my skirt or pants. Air dyers make an appalling noise. You are as likely to pick up germs from every other door, cart handle, stair rail. Way your hands often, use soap, be thorough, and you are a good citizen who is distributing fewer cooties. Teach your kids.
posted by theora55 at 9:23 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


showbiz_liz: For serious. Just freaking out about "bacteria" is about as scientifically valid as freaking out about "chemicals."

I make sure to wash my hands with chemicals so that I don't have to worry about bacteria.
posted by clawsoon at 9:28 AM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


There is no good solution for this.

My friend's mother had a solution:

-give birth to daughter
-daughter grows long hair of her own volition
-Once daugher is a teenager, use daughter's long hair as hand towel in any public restroom lacking paper towels

Takes some planning, but they both seemed to think it worked pretty well.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:41 AM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


This may not be a real issue when you consider that any germs the dryer collects from the air are also being collected by your nose.


I am not breathing air at the same velocity as the air dryer is blowing.
posted by agregoli at 9:45 AM on April 9, 2018


Faster germs on your hands are more dangerous than slower ones in your nose? And on your hands and the rest of you?


Who does that sort of boasting remind us of?

The My Pillow guy and his idiot friend?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2018


The handkerchief code isn't a real thing that anybody takes seriously.

Oh, ho, ho, ho!

The letter "d" -- and most of the "colors" -- are a smokescreen to throw off the Straights. It's actually The Banana Code, and the only colors that matter are green, yellow, and brown -- respectively meaning "Not looking to meet anyone," "Available," and "I love the smell of fresh baked goods [not a euphemism]."
posted by wenestvedt at 9:59 AM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]




Faster germs on your hands are more dangerous than slower ones in your nose? And on your hands and the rest of you?


I didn't say that. These discussions would be better if people didn't jump all over each other and ascribe conclusions not expressed in the comments they are responding to.

My point is it COULD be relevant that the dryer is pulling in air from the room and putting it on your hands at a faster pace. I don't know. But it seems silly to believe that is the truth OR dismiss it without any evidence.
posted by agregoli at 9:59 AM on April 9, 2018


Regardless, I'm not going to pay attention to any of these studies until one confirms actual disease transmission

+1.

Purely as speculation, perhaps it could be a hazard for immunocompromised people? Otherwise this seems like those cleaning product adverts warning that there are more bacteria on my chopping board than on my toilet seat: if it's true now it always has been, and given how vanishingly rarely I get sick that seems fine.

Faeces are gross, other people's more so, but since taking some microbiology courses I've come to terms with the idea that basically every publicly-accessible surface is covered in it anyway. Nature is awful, it's best not to think about it too much.
posted by metaBugs at 10:00 AM on April 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


If you're really seriously worried about germs on surfaces, never pump your own gas, or wear gloves when you do.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:01 AM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


I carry a handkerchief or a small washcloth and use that when drying my hands. My husband and I lived in Japan where that's a normal thing to do, and honestly no one has really commented on it in the US. I have a kid, so it's also handy to have something to clean her face or cover her lap if she's cold or tie into a bundle if I need a makeshift bag.

It took a little effort to change my habits so that I always have a clean one in my pocket or backpack, but it's a normal part of laundry. The challenge is to remember to switch out dirty ones, but I have extras in my car and backpack.
posted by Alison at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Guys who use the soles of their shoes to push the flush handle on standing urinals are cancer.

i'm not particularly familiar with urinals in general so my assumption was that the handle would be like, near the top? like chest high? idk? so in this horrible vision it's just guys with their junk out just doing rockette kicks in the bathroom while everyone cringes?

dislike
posted by poffin boffin at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2018 [22 favorites]


Something I've always found interesting about the USA. One is forced to display one's baked body and bodily functions when one would prefer privacy (school and gym locker rooms, bathroom stalls with giant gaps arround the too short door), but one is punished for displaying one's baked body and bodily functions when one wants to (get put in sexual offenders regsitry for taking a leak outdoors, when the only one that saw you is the cop that caught you, all the places with anti topless laws).

Docile Bodies, yo. Read your Discipline and Punish.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:16 AM on April 9, 2018


So, I did this while I was in Japan, because a lot of restrooms (at least the ones in the parks and such) there have neither paper towels nor hot air dryers. I didn't see anybody else drying their hands with their own towels, but nobody looked at me funny for it either.

I assume you were using male-designated restrooms? In the female-designated restrooms, every woman has her own tiny towel, maybe 15x15cm. It took me about 2 days to facepalm and acquire one. You can also spot women drying the towels on top of their purses.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:17 AM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


baked body

undercover gingerbread man is revealed
posted by poffin boffin at 10:17 AM on April 9, 2018 [10 favorites]


so in this horrible vision it's just guys with their junk out just doing rockette kicks in the bathroom while everyone cringes?

In my experience the junk is already back in the trunk, but yes hilarious Game of Death high kicks.
posted by zippy at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


Dysk: Everything I can find about UK building regs suggests the opposite - that bathroom doors must swing outwards, to facilitate disabled access. Hard to find anything definitive for public restrooms, mind. But YMMV depending on your jurisdiction.

My understanding is that both the US and UK, legislated accessibility standards focus more on the impact the door swing has on clear floor space (important for maneuverability and turning radius requirements).

Info is available in the statutory guidance for compliance with the Building Regulations as governed by the Equality Act, 2010 (the UK's DDA was folded into the Equality Act a few years back).

See: Section 5: Sanitary Accommodation in buildings other than dwellings (pdf).

In the US:

Section 603.2 of the ADA Standards (pdf):

603.2.3 Door Swing. Doors shall not swing into the clear floor space or clearance required for any fixture. Doors shall be permitted to swing into the required turning space.

EXCEPTIONS: 1. Doors to a toilet room or bathing room for a single occupant accessed only through a private office and not for common use or public use shall be permitted to swing into the clear floor space or clearance provided the swing of the door can be reversed to comply with

2. Where the toilet room or bathing room is for individual use and a clear floor space complying
with 305.3 is provided within the room beyond the arc of the door swing, doors shall be permitted to swing into the clear floor space or clearance required for any fixture.

Advisory 603.2.3 Door Swing Exception 1. At the time the door is installed, and if the door swing is reversed in the future, the door must meet all the requirements specified in 404. Additionally, the door swing cannot reduce the required width of an accessible route. Also, avoid violating other building or life safety codes when the door swing is reversed.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


so in this horrible vision it's just guys with their junk out just doing rockette kicks in the bathroom while everyone cringes?

Given the state of some of the public restrooms I've seen, this seems plausible.

I assume you were using male-designated restrooms?

That's correct. It's also quite likely that the other men were using similar towels and I just didn't notice because I wasn't paying super close attention to other people in the restrooms.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:29 AM on April 9, 2018


since taking some microbiology courses I've come to terms with the idea that basically every publicly-accessible surface is covered in it anyway.

I got to learn this lesson way earlier - in fifth grade I did that science project where you prepare agar dishes and then populate them with samples collected from around your home with pieces of scotch tape. Turned out, the most gnarly surface in my home was not the toilet seat or the inside of my mom's shoes or something, it was the plastic toys I played with every day and had been known to put in my mouth. I was like "well, gross, but I seem to be alive still..."
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:35 AM on April 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


I mean, re: gas stations, I am also extremely grossed out by them, yes. I would keep hand sanitizer in my car if it weren't for the dreadful high temperatures where I live. There's a reason I always wash my hands and change after driving home from work etc.
posted by inconstant at 10:35 AM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


Like, yeah, I'm still alive, but also people have lived for literally millions of years without basic sanitation and I still like basic sanitation so?
posted by inconstant at 10:36 AM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


I got to learn this lesson way earlier - in fifth grade I did that science project where you prepare agar dishes and then populate them with samples collected from around your home with pieces of scotch tape.

As a demonstration of what a microbial theme park the human mouth really is, one of the science teachers in my high school licked the agar jelly in a petri dish.

He left it to incubate with all of the others we were assigned to fan out across the school with to collect samples (oh god whatever grew in the boys' shower room one sample was gnarly).

As for the lick sample, what grew in the grooves his tongue left in the agar was also pretty gnarly-looking.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:44 AM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


Damn autocorrect.
:%s/baked/naked/g
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 11:00 AM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


more than once in a locker room i’ve run into old dudes, totally nude, in sort of a captain morgan pose on the bench, blow drying their nutsacks. for this reason i am in favor of banning blow dryers in all public accommodations.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:03 AM on April 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


you think I'm touching the handle of a manual flush crapper with anything OTHER than my shoe you're absolutely insane.

In my old office the toilet handle and its internal attachments were always breaking. My landlord was hopeless at fixing things so I just repaired it myself. A dozen times if not more. I couldn't figure out why it kept breaking in such a strange way until I mentioned in passing that the handle always seemed to be torqued in a particular way to my staff. One of them piped up that she always flushed the toilet with her foot. I asked her why she simply didn't flush the toilet and then wash her hands. She just shrugged. I asked her not to use her foot but knowing that she'd ignore me I replaced all the plastic parts with scavenged metal pieces so it was like some kind of toilet out of the Road Warrior. It never broke again.

more than once in a locker room i’ve run into old dudes, totally nude, in sort of a captain morgan pose on the bench, blow drying their nutsacks.

I don't go to the Y anymore because of this. Why do they do that?
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:28 AM on April 9, 2018 [8 favorites]


more than once in a locker room i’ve run into old dudes, totally nude, in sort of a captain morgan pose on the bench, blow drying their nutsacks. for this reason i am in favor of banning blow dryers in all public accommodations.

I could translate, but the photo really says it all.
posted by myotahapea at 11:30 AM on April 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


Like, yeah, I'm still alive, but also people have lived for literally millions of years without basic sanitation and I still like basic sanitation so?

Right?? People love to frame it in terms of "will you die" but that doesn't cover the range of miseries you'll encounter when you get to know norovirus, e.coli, or any other horrifying germ that thrives around bathrooms. "I'm still alive" is beside the point when you're spending twelve hours on or near a toilet, retching and shitting blood. The stakes are still pretty high, IMHO, and I'd prefer to not play fast-n-loose with public bathroom germs if I can help it at all.
posted by witchen at 11:54 AM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


I mean maybe this is just my immune system privilege talking, but none of those things have ever happened to me and I have been in literally TENS of bathrooms in my life.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:58 AM on April 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


Like are other people just routinely touching the door handle in Burger King bathrooms and then shitting their brains out for twelve hours? Is this an actual verifiable thing that happens to people?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:59 AM on April 9, 2018 [8 favorites]


Never mind the hand dryers and doorknobs, what about those filthy telephone receivers?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:01 PM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think it is a verifiable thing that happens to people. It is a fact that fecal matter contains bad germs. It is also a fact that if you touch a surface holding fecal matter from someone who has been sick, and then you touch your mouth--or your phone, or a straw in your drink, or a jar of lip balm-- before washing your hands again, you will become infected with something that causes discomfort (for me) or organ damage (for someone whose immune system is compromised, or who is older, or very young, or etc. etc.).

Have you ever heard of someone getting sick in a public bathroom? I have! And I sure as heck don't want whatever is on any of those bathroom surfaces.
posted by witchen at 12:09 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


I could translate, but the photo really says it all.

At least it was a drawing and not a photograph. (Plus, now I know the term for "dry scrotum" in Icelandic!)
posted by briank at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2018


...so in this horrible vision it's just guys with their junk out just doing rockette kicks in the bathroom while everyone cringes?

You're thinking Rockette. They're thinking Kung Fu.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:11 PM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


Also, I have no trouble flushing urinals with my elbow, which never gets anywhere near my face.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:12 PM on April 9, 2018


It is a fact that fecal matter contains bad germs. It is also a fact that if you touch a surface holding fecal matter from someone who has been sick, and then you touch your mouth--or your phone, or a straw in your drink, or a jar of lip balm-- before washing your hands again, you will become infected with something that causes discomfort (for me) or organ damage (for someone whose immune system is compromised, or who is older, or very young, or etc. etc.).

Well, the whole point of science is to bridge the gap between "this is a plausible conclusion based on the other things we know" and "this is very definitely what is happening".

What the studies of bathroom air dryers tell me is that it's plausible that bathroom air dryers might be associated with higher rates of actual illness. But they don't say that bathroom air dryers actually are associated with higher rates of actual illness, because as far as I can tell nobody has actually studied that question yet.

There are lots of reasons to think that the observed fact that air dryers can spread germs if people who have germs on their hands use the air dryers doesn't actually translate to air dryers actually spreading germs. Like, for instance, it's also plausible -- based on the exact same studies -- that the epidemiological consequences of air dryers over paper towels are entirely neutral so long as some sufficiently high percentage of people who use air dryers properly washed their hands first.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:32 PM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yes, we need more sciencing here.

I can come up with a plausible conclusion based on other things we know.

Some vaccines are made by weakening bad germs so that when they enter the body they trigger an immune response, but they are not strong enough to make one sick.

Bad germs can be weakened by heat or dehydration.

By going through the hand dryer the bad germs are weakened by the hot air and dehydration.

Hot air hand dryers are like vaccine dispensers, for good health place open mouth in airstream.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 12:44 PM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


old dudes,
totally nude,
in sort of a
captain morgan pose
on the bench,
blow drying
their nutsacks.


The finest Vogon Poetry by vogon_poet
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:49 PM on April 9, 2018 [12 favorites]


GOD this was not the right thread to open up while eating lunch
posted by btfreek at 12:52 PM on April 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


Right?? People love to frame it in terms of "will you die" but that doesn't cover the range of miseries you'll encounter when you get to know norovirus, e.coli, or any other horrifying germ that thrives around bathrooms. "I'm still alive" is beside the point when you're spending twelve hours on or near a toilet, retching and shitting blood. The stakes are still pretty high, IMHO, and I'd prefer to not play fast-n-loose with public bathroom germs if I can help it at all.

Let's not forget our friend campylobacter, whose intimate acquaintance I made a few months back. Good god.

So...WASH YOUR FUCKING HANDS PROPERLY, PEOPLE. THE FECAL-ORAL ROUTE IS A THING.

GOD this was not the right thread to open up while eating lunch

Since campylobacter infection is a diagnosis that's reported to the public health authorities where I live, a public health nurse followed up with me a few weeks later (obviously, collecting data to see if this was part of an outbreak pattern etc).

Best question from the public health nurse: "Did you engage in any sexual activity with anyone while you were symptomatic?"

My answer: "Oh, hell no. Are you kidding?"

Public health nurse: "You know, you'd be surprised."

Me: "Ew."

Her: "I agree."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:02 PM on April 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


I mean maybe this is just my immune system privilege talking

IT IS, YOU MONSTER

i literally cannot count the time i have had some godawful stomach thing going on. the most recent was exactly like colonoscopy prep except instead of 12 hours it was 45 extremely action-packed minutes.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:06 PM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


Lids on toilet seats are a reasonably common occurrence in Australia. I always avoided the toilets with the lids down, as 9 times out of 10 the lid was down because the loo was broken or someone had just taken a really big dump in it (possibly both).
posted by Kris10_b at 1:40 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


Is there a German word for that moment of confusion in a public restroom when you can't tell whether someone's a germophobe or just really scared of doorhandles?

Umbequemkeimenorturknaufangst

I just looked up the German words for uncomfortable, germ, doorknob, and terror then smushed them all into one longer word. Based on living in Berlin for a few years, I think that's how German works. Although the order I smushed them up in is likely incorrect.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:04 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see a study over some reasonable period of time, like maybe a year or two, to determine whether people who go to all these gyrations to avoid touching doorhandles, toilet-flush levers, etc., in office settings actually get sick less often than people who just shrug and use the bathroom according to the path-of-least-resistance as the architect probably assumed they'd use it, washing normally and drying with whatever appliance is provided and then using whatever handle is provided to open the door.

I'm really suspicious that it may have zero correlation, but like the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight, people obsess over it because the other things—the things that actually do put you at risk for getting sick more often—are much harder to control. (I suspect it probably involves "Step 1: Search your house for children, remove any found, disinfecting hands afterward.")

I am aware of research specifically in hospital settings that look at doorknobs as a vector for the transmission of certain microorganisms, effect of foot-operated door openers, etc., but the threat in a hospital is different—you might have a patient in one room with multi-drug-resistant MRSA and you really want to contain that bug to that one room. That's a very different situation from a home or office, where you're going to walk out of the bathroom and into an environment with very little internal compartmentalization and lots of shared surfaces anyway.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:54 PM on April 9, 2018 [11 favorites]


instead of 12 hours it was 45 extremely action-packed minutes.

I'm on the Chipotle cleanse. Ask me anything.
posted by zippy at 3:07 PM on April 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


Even though I get that bathrooms have germs and are used by non-fastidious people, my approach to the germs has always been ... eh, don’t worry about it. At work sometimes I see guys opening the door with an elbow or wrapping a paper towel around their hand before touching something and it reads as fussy to me. Maybe I’m just lucky. I’ve spent my whole life drinking out of park water fountains, sitting on floors, and putting my face right up in cat and dog fur and I rarely if ever get sick. I just feel like if I start worrying about it I’ll end up like my friend who won’t buy a “used” house. There are germs everywhere and you can’t escape them!
posted by freecellwizard at 4:06 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


To serve you better we have installed pollution-free warm air hand dryers to protect you from the hazard of disease which may be transmitted by towel litter. This quick, sanitary method dries hands more thoroughly, prevents chapping, and keeps washrooms free of towel waste.

Memorized ca. 1983 at summer camp.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:18 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


Guys who use the soles of their shoes to push the flush handle on standing urinals are cancer. That is all.

But if you think I'm touching the handle of a manual flush crapper with anything OTHER than my shoe you're absolutely insane.

You're literally about to wash your hands I do not get this level of fussiness in a functioning human adult.


So there are two washrooms at work that was built circa 1970 as far as I can tell. Most of the toilets in these washrooms have flush handles (the newer washrooms have motion sensor flush toilets that like to flush while you're still sitting on them), but each has one stall (the accessible one) where you flush the toilet by pushing a round button on the wall.

This round button is VERY STIFF and difficult to press. I have come close to spraining my thumb pushing that freaking button in. It also positions one's face much closer to the toilet than I like to be when flushing. (No lid, naturally.)

I was complaining about this to someone and they looked at me like I had grown another head. "Just push the button with your shoe," they said. And so I did. And voila! No more sprained thumb, no more face full of toilet spray.

So mostly I avoid that stall, but if I can't, damned straight I'm flushing that toilet with my shoe.

I don't have much of a point with this story except that it is another example of how you'd think the people who design public washrooms/toilets are not actually human and have never used one before. For sure none of them ever seem to have menstruated, because inevitably the placement of the little waste receptacles for putting your pads and tampons in is a) behind you and b) really far up the wall and c) who on earth can contort that way while you're sitting on the toilet?? I guess I'm supposed to stand up and rummage around behind me, risking turning the stall into a bloody crime scene.

Harrumph.

(on preview: Stewriffic, I totally remember that being printed on the hand dryers! I'm sure if I poked around at work I could still find it on some of our ancient washroom fixtures.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:20 PM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


This round button is VERY STIFF and difficult to press.

Hah. This means it's not accessible. So it's a brown M&M for the "accessible" stall not being accessible. I'd bet a paycheque that the grab bars are improperly positioned and there's an insufficient turn radius.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:28 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hurdy Gurdy Girl, if you find one from the correct era, double-check my phrasing, will ya? As I was typing it out I kept having to go back through and make sure I got it right. I don't think I've ever written it before today!
posted by Stewriffic at 4:32 PM on April 9, 2018


> The order of operations is wipe, belt buckle and pants, exit stall, wash hands

You forgot "remove phone from bra" before "exit stall."
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:52 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


In Japan, there's a sort of solution (though probably not conceived as such) to all this. In most public bathrooms, there's no paper. There's often no hand dryer, either. So you wash your hands, and with wet, dripping hands...you leave. You're expected to carry some sort of handkerchief to dry your hands off, or my preferred method, just pat them dry on your trousers.
posted by zardoz at 5:29 PM on April 9, 2018


This round button is VERY STIFF and difficult to press.

Hah. This means it's not accessible. So it's a brown M&M for the "accessible" stall not being accessible. I'd bet a paycheque that the grab bars are improperly positioned and there's an insufficient turn radius.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:28 PM on April 9 [+] [!]


I know! I have always thought, why the hell is the "accessible" stall the one with the impossible to flush toilet? I am with you on thinking there's more that makes that stall inaccessible.

Stewriffic, I will definitely report back if I do manage to find one of those dryers!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:23 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't have much of a point with this story except that it is another example of how you'd think the people who design public washrooms/toilets are not actually human and have never used one before.

Speaking of engineering solutions that can only come from people who have clearly used the type of facility they're designing for at some point: almost every single urinal I used in Japan was much taller than American urinals. The top would start at a similar height, but the bottom would be very close to the ground if not actually flush with the ground (the latter being more common in park bathrooms).

This is a good example of what I'm talking about. It doesn't entirely eliminate the problem of urine splatter on the floor, but it both significantly reduces the amount of urine splatter on the floor and also removes the need to have that one urinal that's mounted slightly lower than the other ones. Genius.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:39 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


The issue is most likely rooted in the fact that you're not allowed to have a restroom door swing (or any door swing) protrude into a hallway
Unless you're in Sweden or Japan.
posted by unliteral at 7:08 PM on April 9, 2018


Something I miss from being on a cruise ship is hand sanitiser dispensers everywhere. It should be mandatory for every doorway in the world to have a hand sanitiser installed on the inside and out.
posted by unliteral at 7:31 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


bwahaha, I just dry my hands in my hair. I was also raised with a healthy dose of 不干不净,吃了没病, roughly, "a little dirt never hurt anyone."

Though yesterday at ORD, I was very amused to find a sink that had not only an automatic faucet and automatic soaper at the basin, but also an automatic air dryer. It came with a little laser that showed you where it was blowing.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:42 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


In Japan, there's a sort of solution (though probably not conceived as such) to all this. In most public bathrooms, there's no paper. There's often no hand dryer, either. So you wash your hands, and with wet, dripping hands...you leave. You're expected to carry some sort of handkerchief to dry your hands off

I've adopted this custom, and I love it. In urban areas, hand driers are slowly spreading (and rarely used in my experience) but I still use my little towel. It's only a 15cm square, but still makes me feel like Ford Prefect. Stick it in the laundry at the end of the day, job done. What I find hilarious about the hand driers here is that the aperture is usually so narrow that you can't help but touch the sides. Way to go!
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 12:13 AM on April 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


At work, we have three sinks in the ladies' loos, matching the three cubicles. Sadly, that's where the counting skills ran out, as there are only two little refillable soap dispenser bottles shared between them. There's a single very loud, but fairly effective, downward-pointing hot air dryer mounted at roughly eye level on the wall (as such things always are, because who *doesn't* want drops of water running into their sleeves as they lift their hands towards the dryer) and an automatic paper towel dispenser that you wave your hand in front of to find out whether it's got any paper towels left or not. On the wall by the inward-opening door is a dispenser for... mouthwash.

To get back to your office, you then have to swipe your card and pull open a glass door (the fingerprint smears are great for that visual indicator of just how many people have touched this thing since it was last cleaned) to re-enter the floor, and do the same again to get into the office itself. If we ever hire someone seriously germ-phobic, I imagine they'll be curled in the foetal position crying by mid-morning.

Oh, there's also a separate accessible toilet. I'm told it contains a toilet, a sink, an electricals cupboard, and no means of drying your hands whatsoever.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:32 AM on April 10, 2018


hurdy gurdy girl, much obliged. I have always taken pride in being able to recite that by heart so accurately. It's the little things in life, yeah? However, since I have not seen that model in the wild in years, I am getting less confident!
posted by Stewriffic at 4:23 AM on April 10, 2018


Hand sanitizer kills both good and bad bacteria, so having stations of hand sanitizers everywhere could be horrible for public health.
posted by agregoli at 9:45 AM on April 10, 2018 [5 favorites]


Hand sanitizer is also completely useless in the face of norovirus, which is like the #1 thing to avoid in a bathroom. I am amused and horrified that they’re used around cruise ships so much, what with all the well-documented, frequent norovirus outbreaks on those things.
posted by witchen at 10:54 AM on April 10, 2018 [4 favorites]


I tried the hand towel thing when visiting Japan and ended up with a wet hand towel in my pocket for the rest of the day. Which had been incubating god knows what in terms of germs/mold floating around. I figure I was doing something wrong, but am completely mystified as to how one uses the hand towel and then somehow dries it out before using the next restroom.
posted by Hactar at 11:48 AM on April 10, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hand sanitizer is also completely useless in the face of norovirus, which is like the #1 thing to avoid in a bathroom. I am amused and horrified that they’re used around cruise ships so much, what with all the well-documented, frequent norovirus outbreaks on those things.

Well, it sounds like the hand sanitizer fixed all the other outbreaks, then.
posted by lazuli at 2:08 PM on April 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have seen little brackets on bathroom doors that fit your forearm, so you don’t have to use a hand.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:13 PM on April 10, 2018


This is a good thread to satisfy my curiosity without having to waste an AskMe question.

How are phones getting so dirty? (e.g. this Time article, Your cell phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat)

If I'm gonna use my phone while I'm on the toilet, and come on, we all do it sometimes, my process is simple.

Pull down pants, sit down. Take phone out of pocket or bag. Play a game of Tetris. Put phone back in pocket. So far my hands have not touched anything dirty. Wipe, pull up pants, flush. Go wash hands. Leave, take phone out of pocket.

At what point in this process is the phone exposed to bathroom germs?
posted by AFABulous at 1:12 PM on April 11, 2018


At what point in this process is the phone exposed to bathroom germs?

The time it's out of your pocket? Germs don't magically disappear from a toilet within seconds.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


How clean are paper towels? Are there sterile paper towel factories? Are the shipping docks they pass through not dusty? Aren't people just gross anyway?
posted by WeekendJen at 1:18 PM on April 11, 2018


But those germs would have to be airborne, so why would your phone be any dirtier than your entire body and the air you're breathing?
posted by AFABulous at 1:55 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


But those germs would have to be airborne, so why would your phone be any dirtier than your entire body and the air you're breathing?

Transmission of e. coli doesn't go via the lungs, it goes via the mouth. And the rest of your body is covered by clothes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:58 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


This thread has done nothing to dissuade me from my conviction that the real public health threat in bathrooms is a) people who don't know how to wash their hands properly and b) people who don't bother to wash their hands at all.

Also, designing environments for realistic human behavior is a whole lot more effective than trying to convince people to change ingrained behaviors.

Among other interventions, I wonder how different handwashing rates (and thoroughness) are in bathrooms with particularly pleasant sinks, water temperature, and soap quality. I know I definitely wash for longer when the temperature is not freezing (or burning hot), the sink is easy to control, and the soap is nicer.

Also I wonder how different handwashing rates are at the places with the sinks in a more public area outside the room with the stalls. Solves the door-handle problem, more or less. Increases social pressure if more people can see you. Creates a noise problem if they have hand dryers, though.
posted by mosst at 7:01 AM on April 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


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