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People feel unsafe using public washrooms with air dryers, new study finds

29 June 2020

According to a new international study nearly eight out of 10 people surveyed in the UK feel more unsafe going to facilities with unhygienic public washrooms today than before the pandemic.

The study from Tork, an Essity brand, reveals that 33% of UK survey respondents say they feel unsafe entering a washroom equipped with air dryers.

Expectations about public spaces and demands for safe hygiene solutions are higher than ever before. According to the study, which examined the impact of COVID-19 on people’s attitudes regarding public hygiene, 87% believe it is critically important to public safety to maintain a high hygiene standard in public washrooms.

This increased concern for hygiene in public washrooms has driven a change in preference for hand drying solutions. According to the study, 59% of people surveyed in the UK wish more facilities offered paper hand towels as an alternative to air dryers. The study also found that 29% of people now have an increased preference for paper hand towels versus before the pandemic. The most common reasons selected by UK survey respondents for this change in preferences are a perception that paper hand towels are more hygienic to the user (77%), dry hands more quickly (42%) and spread less bacteria in the air (45%).  

As the preference for paper hand towels increases by washroom visitors, the cost of not offering paper hand towels can be high for facilities. Nearly 40% of UK survey respondents say they are less likely to visit places that do not offer paper hand towels as a hand drying alternative, and 33% say they feel unsafe entering a washroom equipped with air dryers.  

Alberto Cajiga, VP Marketing, Essity Professional Hygiene, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that all businesses need to adapt to a new hygiene standard. While some facilities might have chosen air dryers before based on perceived ease of use, that is not enough anymore.  A larger portion of the population feels less safe now using air dryers.  We have seen an increase in requests from facility managers who want to change from air dryers to paper hand towels.”
 
According to the report, for hygiene-critical areas, such as food processing plants and hospitals, paper hand towels have long been the only acceptable hand drying solution. Unlike paper hand towels, jet air dryers produce more airborne droplets, which increases the risk of bacteria spread in the air. The friction from drying hands with paper towels also helps to remove more bacteria than other drying options.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more visitors are likely to hold public washrooms to the same standards that apply in those hygiene-critical areas.  In fact, 86% of UK survey respondents say they expect public washrooms will provide a safer hygiene environment now than before the COVID crisis.  
 
“The study suggests that providing solutions that make people feel safe when visiting public spaces must be a top priority for facility managers that want to re-attract guests. The cost of not addressing their concerns is simply too high,” said Cajiga. 

The survey was conducted by United Minds in cooperation with CINT using web-panels. Data was collected between April 8-13, 2020 in the UK market with a total of 1004 respondents.

 
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