Don’t Make Me Touch Anything

Jim Ross / Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My colleague, Tobias Komischke, wrote a blog post a few years ago assessing the design of the Dyson Airblade hand dryer. His assessment was that it performed very well at drying hands, but the designers didn’t consider what would happen to the water that blew off people’s hands onto the floor. The designers put all of the emphasis on the primary purpose – to effectively dry hands. They didn’t design to the last detail and failed to consider what would happen to the water, which ended up pooling below the dryer, in addition to the water that dripped off people’s hands as they walked from the sinks to the dryers.

That’s a very good point, but I think another major thing that the designers overlooked was the primary goal of people who wash their hands in public restrooms - “Don’t make me touch anything!” I don’t consider myself a major germophobe, but I do think there are a lot of people like me who will avoid touching anything we don’t have to in a public restroom, especially after washing our hands. We’ll act like monkeys, using our feet, a shoulder, an elbow, or a paper towel to avoid touching anything. People who care enough about health and hygiene to wash their hands, don’t want to get them dirty again.

Unlike traditional hand dryers, the Dyson Airblade forces users to awkwardly insert their hands from the top into two narrow slots. As high-speed air blows your hands from both directions, you’re supposed to raise and lower your hands in these very narrow slots. You need to be very careful and have steady hands to avoid accidentally touching the sides, which in my imagination are disgusting germ repositories.


Every time I’ve used these, I’ve thought, “I just want to dry my hands and get out of here – not play a game of Operation!” If I accidentally touch the sides, I think, “Great, now my hands are dry but not clean anymore.” I’m not paranoid enough to go back and wash my hands again after accidentally touching the sides, but it has caused me to avoid these hand dryers whenever possible, and I don’t think I’m the only one. I’ve noticed that many people tend to avoid Airblades whenever they can.

But recently, in a Starbucks bathroom, I made an amazing discovery – the Dyson Airblade V, a new version of the Airblade. Like the original Airblade, it shoots out high-powered air in two thin blades, but like a traditional dryer, you put your hands below it – far out of range of accidentally touching anything. It’s a much more natural way of drying your hands. It doesn’t solve the water dripping on the floor problem that Tobias mentioned, but it does solve the primary concern of people like me – “Don’t make me touch anything!”


Now, if we could only solve the problem of making all restroom doors open outwards (avoiding the need to pull a door handle), the world would be a better place, but that’s a discussion for another time.