It’s long been suspected that hand dryers, especially those quick-drying ones that blast hot air known as jet dryers, are actually way worse at keeping our hands and bathrooms free of disease-causing germs.

Worryingly, they could even be spreading illness in hospital bathrooms, new research suggests.

Researchers in the UK, France, and Italy teamed up for the study, hoping to definitively settle the question of how dirty hand dryers can be.

For three four-week periods, they tracked the spread of several bacteria known to cause disease in hospitals — such as antibiotic-susceptible and resistant Staphylococcus aureus — in the public bathrooms of three hospitals, one in each country.

The six bathrooms included in the study each had a jet dryer installed and could carry paper towels, but only one hand-drying method was used per bathroom.

There were some differences between the hospitals — UK bathrooms, for instance, were visited far more often, while Italian bathrooms were much less germy — but a consistent pattern emerged: bathrooms that used jet dryers were more covered with germs than were bathrooms with only paper towels.

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