“Dyson Airblade” not the fastest or most hygienic

By | October 26, 2010

My workplace has installed Dyson Airblade hand dryers in the bathrooms. The Airblade claims to be “the fastest, most hygienic hand dryer.”

In fact, the Airblade does a bad job of drying my hands, it isn’t significantly faster than the Xlerator, and it’s not particularly hygienic.

You don’t rub your hands together when using the Airblade. Instead, you hold them flat, with your fingers spread, and move them around in the jet of air that’s blowing the water off of them. This means that the jet needs to reach all parts of your hands to get them dry. But it doesn’t.

When I spread my fingers, my pinkies stick out the sides of the Airblade, so the jet doesn’t hit them at all, and my thumbs overlap. In addition, the jet doesn’t do a particularly good job of drying between my fingers. If I hold my hands still for a couple of seconds to focus the jet on an area I can feel isn’t getting dry, the Airblade senses that I’ve stopped moving and shuts off. Because of all this, when I take my hands out of the Airblade, they’re usually not completely dry.

The Airblade’s drying chamber is quite cramped. When you move your hands around enough to get them dry, you’ll inevitably come into contact with the sides or bottom of the chamber. As the study linked to above points out, there is a significant amount of bacterial growth inside the chamber because it’s kept wet all the time by the water blown off of people’s hands. In short, while you are drying your hands in the Airblade, they come into direct contact with bacteria.

The water from people’s hands doesn’t just collect inside the Airblade chamber. It also runs out the sides of the chamber, causing the floor under the Airblade to be constantly wet. Dirt and bacteria collect and multiply in this puddle.

While you are using the Airblade, the jet blows water not just down into the chamber and onto the floor, but also up onto your face and clothing and to either side where other people may be standing. This water is not entirely clean — the Airblade essentially blows bacteria onto you and bystanders. In addition, if you wear glasses, they get sprayed by the water and end up dirty with water spots.

The Xlerator avoids most of these problems. Its jet blows straight down, so there is much less dispersion of water and certainly none into your face. Since you hold your hands in the open air rather than a chamber, there is less risk of touching a bacteria-covered surface. Since the jet produced by the Xlerator is made up of warm air, more of the water from your hands evaporates rather than ending up in a puddle on the floor. Finally, since you rub your hands together while using the Xlerator, it is easier to ensure that they get completely dry.

Anyone who is thinking about installing an Airblade should make sure to check one out in a real, comparable public setting, not in a demo where the salesman will clean the Airblade and floor and take other steps to ensure that the experience is not real-world.

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25 thoughts on ““Dyson Airblade” not the fastest or most hygienic

  1. Shaun Bloom

    If you ever see the Xlerator in a public bathroom, I urge you to look under it before using it to dry your hands. The bottom will likely be covered with filth and mold because the intake is directly next to the outlet, and water gets blown up onto the bottom as air is sucked in. The insides of those things must be 10 times worse.

    The Dyson units aren’t much better. The insides of those things don’t have a drain, so the water accumulates in the chamber, drips down the sides, and onto the floor. The chamber, sides, and floor all get nasty and moldy looking very quickly.

    The Mitsubishi Jet Towel at least has a drain tank and a much larger chamber for your hands. It dries your hands better and doesn’t have the nasty mess the other two always seem to have.

  2. NomNom

    You’re supposed to keep your palms flat and move your hand from bottom to top, this dries your hands 100% in my experience. It’s like going through an automatic car wash dryer–but better.

    1. jik Post author

      Oh, gee, thanks for that helpful clarification! Now that you’ve explained to us the error of our ways, all of us who have had terrible experiences with these hand driers have repented our sacrilege against Dyson and in the future will preach only the superiority of Dyson Airblade!


  3. Phil

    Definitely not the most hygienic! We have to clean these every day. We clean them 3 times a day and from the evening to the morning they are filthy again, dust, hairs, dirt and dirty water all collect around the blades and in the bottom, which then runs down the sides and makes the sides the floor and the surrounding wall dirty. I like Mr. Dyson and his products, but sorry, from a cleaners perspective, these are awful!

  4. Leo

    Dyson sure have great sales people. This thing is so dirty I would rather have wet hands than to dry in one of those things. I too prefer Xlerator.

  5. Peter "P" Diddy

    I just want to state that I hate the airblade for the same reason many others do – it’s almost impossible to use without your hands touching the blades! What’s the point of a wanky HEPA filter that removes 99% of bacteria when you’re rubbing both sides of your hands along a disgusting strip of plastic covered other people’s excrement? Just in case you miss that, there’s another puddle of the same just below your hands to blow everywhere.

    What a stupid design. I notice they make one that doesn’t require you to sandwich your hands, I imagine that’s a far better option. Don’t know why this one is so popular, especially for its ludicrous price.

  6. Digruntled Janitor

    Yeah these things where just installed in my workplace and I absolutely hate them. Everyday I have to scrub these things down till they’re squeaky clean, yet the following night when I start my shift they’re fully covered in a thick layer of dirty greasy grey filth, and they must be scrubbed again. Meanwhille they leak oily brown slime down the walls, and spread sticky dusty crud on the surfaces around them. The air blowing smells like dirty laundry. While I not responsible for cleaning thier filters, the guy who does blithely does does so by rinsing them out in the sink, leaving the mess behind all day for me to clean up in the evening. Honestly I’m surprised they get cleaned at all. They probably won’t be once the new wears off, not anymore than they’ve ever cleaned or replaced the HEPA filters in our vaccuum cleaners. Finally, if you need to wash your face, a need that occasionally pops when you practice the custodial arts, you SOL when in comes time to dry it. What little time they may save me in restocking and trash detail is lost to the time spent pampering the stupid things. I wished they’d either gone with a normal dryer or just left the paper towels in place.

  7. Jezza

    As a person not biased in any way by being involved in the sale or manufacture of any of these devices I feel I can say without bias that to not take into account the initial cost of the unit and its expected life span is not good economics and something my companyt would not entertain.

    Whole life cost is more important than day to day running costs. I am also concerned that devices that use high velocity air to dry your hands (or your face if possible) are likely to cause the spread of bacteria and sickness and I would not recommend them in any convenience public or otherwise.

    Paper towells are recyclable, always clean as you have a new one each time. In the work place it is staff education that prevents the litter building up – that and ensuring that the staff do clean themselves properly to prevent the spread of deseases. Whilst on this subject for those that do not wash their hands when using a work or public convenience bear in mind that there are some people who use their feet to operate toilet flushes and door handles (yes they do really) and that they are spreading the dirt from the floor all over the place, at least you can use a paper towel to open a door before you dispose of it.

    And finally I do not work for a paper towel company but use logic and experience to determine the sensible route through the sales garb that fills our lives.

  8. Bellynn

    Though in all respects, Dyson is more hygenic ON THE SKIN of the hands themselves than a heated air dryer…

    “The bacterial counts of the bottoms of jet air dryers were particularly high, probably due to the water from users hands that collects in this area. . .These bacterial counts are higher than those found. . .on the average toilet seat.”

    May I just say, EW.

    (quote above from the linked study listed above)

    For hygiene, dryness, and speed, paper towels are really the only option, but I would LOVE to see a study done with Xlerator

  9. M Blooman

    Dysons products promote new technology – which he claims to have invented and has many patents to prove he invents – but the core concept of his inventions are always found somewhere else first. Then he develops the idea.

    Cyclonic separation is used in many industrial processes. In his vacuums it isn’t that effective. The hand dryer was first invented by Mitsubishi in the jet towel. Not as certified or approved as the Dyson – but more reliable. The fan is a novel application of the Bernoulli principle. Made sexy. But the unreliable motors mean they’re over priced.

    Dyson reuses established tech, makes it look and sound sexy and resells it. And he does so successfully. And at premium prices. That is clever. Those of us that know, don’t buy Dyson products. And when a new Dyson product emerges, we look for the existing product that has gone un-noticed.

  10. Cmm

    You sound like an xlerator stooge to me. Here’s a couple of things you didn’t mention: The study you posted doesn’t actually evaluate an xlerator so there’s no real way to compare whether it dries with bacteria levels lower than the dyson.
    The xlerator is wall mounted and the nozzle is so close to the wall that I frequently touch my hands to the wall while trying to hold them under the nozzle. Also, I find that unless you hold your hands VERY close to the nozzle, it doesn’t work as well, so I touch them to the nozzle also.
    Nothing is better than paper or cloth towels at drying or reducing bacteria on your hands.
    I notice a lot of comments about water being blown “all over” using the dyson dryer. I have not experienced that problem. I do notice that water tends to collect in the bottom of the dyson and I think that they could easily solve this problem with a drain at the bottom of the dryer that goes to a floor or sink drain.
    Mostly, this article just sounds like an angry rant against a relatively innovative design. Why so upset?

  11. Ed

    Just another gimmick from good old Dyson. Take his vacuum cleaners. Noisy, not that much different from regular cleaners, look like they were constructed by a five year old using bits of plastic found in a bin, and only ‘suffer no loss of suction’ if you’ve routinely taken the filters out and cleaned them! And never ever try to suck anything up that is remotely larger than a penny as it will find a nice 90 degree angle in the tube to get firmly stuck in!!
    All that from the ‘inventor’, who actually got the idea from centrifugal air filters used on trucks. Please don’t get me started on his ‘digital’ motors!
    As for his airblade technology, great idea but poorly designed, engineered and constructed. When I first used one I was kinda impressed but then I realised my hands where still damp, the airflow buffeted my hands against the unit and ejected copious amounts of water out of the chamber spreading it liberally around the bathroom!! Just a few more operations and enough water will collect on the floor to make quite an adequate slipping hazard!! Well thought out? Nope not at all, is this what I’d have expected from Dyson? You bet!! Mitsubishi produce a type of dryer like this with a chamber to collect the water, a chamber for the hands that is large enough so your hands don’t hit the sides, and it actually dries your hands! Its a shame Dyson didn’t take time to really think it through, but then, when the marketing is strong, you don’t need a decent product, look at Microsoft, they’ve been getting away with it for years!

  12. Sally

    i think people are too concerned about germs i mean you are going to use your hands to open the door when you leave which has been touched by people who haven’t washed their hands. the only people that are coming into contact with the air dryers are people who have just washed their hands so it doesn’t really matter.

    1. jik Post author

      i think people are too concerned about germs

      I think science disagrees with you.

      i mean you are going to use your hands to open the door when you leave which has been touched by people who haven’t washed their hands.

      1. A lot of people use their sleeves or a paper towel to open the door so they don’t have to come into direct contact with the door handle, for exactly the reason you mention.

      2. It’s not an all-or-nothing, binary situation. It’s not like if you’re exposed to any germs at all, all bets are off and you shouldn’t take any steps to limit your germ exposure. Anything you can do to limit germ exposure makes a difference.

      the only people that are coming into contact with the air dryers are people who have just washed their hands so it doesn’t really matter.

      1. Lots of people don’t wash their hands well enough, so there are still germs on their hands when they’re done washing.

      2. The problem with the Dyson Airblade is that it actually provides a pretty good environment for the growth and trapping of germs. Which means that even if people who dry their hands with it are mostly clean, germs get concentrated there.

  13. Rossco

    These things are terrible. They installed them in Adelaide Airport. Ugh, noisy as hell and cramped. When you put your hands in them, you have a high chance of knocking the sides of the airblade and coming into contact with bacteria. Hence I did not bother with them ever again.

  14. Tyler Simerl

    The factory where I work removed an Xlerator and installed one of these
    horrible airblades. First off if you work at a job where your arms or face
    get dirty good luck because after you clean up you cant dry then period.
    Heck you can barely get your wrists dry even if you put your hands in
    as far in as they possibly can go. It turns on an off constantly so you can never really get your hands dry. I work second shift and the unit doesn’t look too bad at the start of my shift but 4 or 5 hours later it looks absolutely disgusting inside , and nasty stuff is flying in your face the whole time. This thing really needs to be cleaned every hour or two to be safe. I can’t express how much I hate it.

  15. dak

    the noise, oh my gosh the noise. especially with hands in it. hearing protection may be required if installed in a small space.

  16. Blaine

    It seems that you have chosen to write a piece before taking time to study the differences between the two units. We also put them in our facilities and found many differences. Xlerators blow 220mph. Dyson Airblades blow 400mph. Xlerators have no filter. Dyson Airblades remove 99.9% of particulate matter with a HEPA-filter. Dyson Airblades can be run 200 times a day for $30 bucks a year. Xlerators use a warm heating element and cost up to $300 per year…

    The units have worked and worked quite well for us. Either way both machines get the job done, one much less expensive than the other.

    1. jik Post author

      My “research” is having used both the Airblade and the Xlerator many times.

      The only things I care about are (a) how well does the thing dry my hands; (b) how fast does the thing dry my hands; and (c) how hygienically does the thing dry my hands.

      As I described in my article, the Xlerator beats the Airblade on (a) and (c) and the two are essentially tied on (b).

      The amount of bacteria in the air sucked in by the Xlerator and blown onto your hands is is irrelevant compared to the amount of bacteria present inside the Airblade drying chamber. Furthermore, realistically speaking, knowing the competence of most janitorial companies and workers, how likely do you think it is that they’ll clean the Airblade’s HEPA filter on a regular basis and thereby prevent it from (a) getting clogged and reducing airflow and (b) collecting high concentrations of bacteria which are then blasted at high speed onto users’ hands?

      Your “$30 bucks a year” vs. “$300 per year” figures are questionable. Dyson’s Web site claims $38.47 per year, and interestingly enough, although it offers the option of comparing to a standard warm air hand dryer, it does not compare to a next-generation dryer such as the Xlerator, presumably because the numbers wouldn’t look as good. Using the figures on the Xlerator Web site, it costs only $88 per year to operate, which is higher than the supposed cost of the Airblade, but what good does it do for the thing to be cheaper if it is more annoying, less effective, and less hygienic?

      Speaking of less effective, the cost estimates for the Airblade are based on a 12-second drying time, but I just used one a minute ago and timed how long it took for my hands to get dry enough for my liking, and it took 29 seconds, more than twice Dyson’s claim. If you use actual drying times rather than the 12 seconds claimed by Dyson, its operating cost is comparable to the Xlerator. I’m quite certain that the Xlerator dries my hands faster than the Airblade does.

      Other relevant points:

      The scuttlebutt on the Internet is that the Airblade is unreliable, and that when parts wear out you end up having to replace the whole thing. In contrast, the Xlerator is designed with modular parts that are easy to replace with the unit on the wall.

      The Dyson warranty is only one year on parts. The Xlerator warranty includes parts and labor for five years.

      The Xlerator costs much less than the Airblade, $399 vs. $1,189 at froogle.com. Given the $88 vs. $38 annual operating cost, it’ll take 15 years in service before the Airblade’s total cost is less than the Xlerator’s. How likely do you think it is that a hand dryer will last 15 years?

      See this page for reinforcement of what I’m saying and other points where the Xlerator beats out the Airblade.

      1. Wow

        Owned. lol man, your response genuinely deserves an award for refuting everything, and I mean absolutely everything the previous poster stated. What kind of business does she manage where she doesn’t care about the health of the customers in respect of hygeine? Hope I never stroll into where she works. And shes proud to be paying over four times as much for a lower quality product? No offense to her but wow, what a fool. Typed this on a kindle so I couldn’t type out all my thoughts as much as I’d want to and there’s typos galore as a result. She was sold, hook line and sinker from somebody who’s pockets just got deeper for having sold her a lower quality product. Spoken from someone who was grossed.out when my hands touched the walls of the airblade. Yuck. -chris

      2. Rob G-T

        There is no link to the Xlerator in the report so we can only take your word for it. So based on fact, (a), (b) and (c) are unverified.

        From the report – “Both the numbers and types of bacteria found to be contaminating the jet air dryers in this study are similar to those found associated with warm air dryers”.
        I agree about cleaning companies.

        There is now an XLERATOReco that has HEPA filters and cool air hand drying so I would say it is a tie and comes down to personal preference.

  17. Anonymous

    Whenever my employers make some seemingly unnecessary improvement to the workplace, I look for the hidden motive. For example, when the ceiling mounted timer-based blueberry scent dispensers went in, I looked for the hidden camera.

    Have you considered the possibility that these are doing some biometric identification or grabbing a DNA sample?


    1. jik Post author

      Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by a good sales pitch.


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