Coronavirus: Automatic Sinks and Air Blowers in Public Restrooms

Photo used under the Pixabay License. See original here.

I have an interesting issue. In the age of the Coronavirus the CDC says the following:

“Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.”

Many automatic faucets in public restrooms such as malls are designed to save the mall money in water bills but run for much less than 20 seconds. If you lather your hands, the backs of your hands, and scrub you often get cut off from the water sensor and the water stops, making a continuous scrub difficult – not impossible but the automatic faucets don’t do you any favors.

Above is a video I recorded at a local Nashville area mall. It shows how long the faucet runs on a single trigger. It will run continuously if it keeps sensing your hands but if you are moving, scrubbing, flipping, it’s hard to keep these kinds of faucets triggered sometimes.

And then there’s the air blowers. Many malls and public restrooms don’t have paper towels anymore. They have air blowers, which are installed to cut down on waste, paper towel costs, and labor costs to empty the waste cans.

According to a Mayo Clinic paper:

“…most studies suggest that paper towels can dry hands efficiently, remove bacteria effectively, and cause less contamination of the washroom environment. From a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers. Paper towels should be recommended in locations where hygiene is paramount, such as hospitals and clinics.” (Huang, Cunrui 2012)

“Not only do jet-air dryers spread viruses further, they also allow them to hang around for far longer, too. Air samples collected around each device up to 15 minutes after their use showed that, on average, there were as many as 50 times more virus particles in the air around a jet-air dryer than a warm-air dryer, and more than 100 times more than around the paper towels.” The Conversation (

My question is does a restroom that uses one or even both of these put us at greater risk for spread of the Coronavirus? Should restrooms be either manual faucets, faucet timers reprogrammed / calibrated, and paper towels be made available where none are now? Or is this perfectly safe?

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