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The Strange History of Hand Dryers

Although technology is changing everywhere, there have been some significant advancements in a place that you are least likely to look, the toilets. After decades of keeping the hand dryer mostly the same, there have been some companies that are currently battling to completely revamp this technology.

For almost 100 years, companies have been working on the electric hand dryer technology to eliminate paper towels. Here is the strange history of the electric hand dryer.

In 1921, the first attempt to create an electric dryer came from the Airdry Corporation of New York. They were the first to patent the process which involved a "simple and efficient apparatus for delivering a blast of heated air for drying the face, hands or hair of a person, or for drying jewellery, metal parts, glassware, or other articles". (Google Patents US1423800A)

However, this company is rarely given credit and instead, many people think that the invention was actually created in 1949 by George Clemens. He not only was the first to popularise the idea of a hand dryer, but he was also the inventor of the first popular electric toothbrush.

The work that was done by Clemens` eventually resulted in the founding of World Dryer, a company that was known for producing hand dryers for many years. However, the company was slow to innovate and was soon taken over by competitors in the industry.

The reason why hand dryers were not the best option at first is because they were loud and inefficient. Most took at least one minute to dry the hands which meant that if paper towels were available, the patron would likely choose paper towels instead.

This problem continued until the Mitsubishi invented a hand-dip style of drying that is designed to blow the water off your hands rather than trying to evaporate the water. This product was known as the Mitsubishi Jet Towel. Although, it was invented in 1993, it took over 10 years to reach some international markets.

In 2006, the Dyson Airblade was released and quickly gained a following from companies around the world, although it came with a high price tag. These dryers became a competitor of the Mitsubishi hand dryer. However, the Xlerator released by Excel Dryer in 2002, is the device that actually became the best option because it dried a person`s hands in just 10 to 15 seconds.

However, none of these inventions would have probably mattered if it was not for the work of Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian obstetrician, who was the first person to make the case for proper hand sanitation.

Semmelweis was trying to determine why the maternal death rate was so much higher for mothers of babies born in hospitals than it was for the women who used midwives. Eventually, he determined that the difference was likely due to the way that patients were handled. It was due to the fact that medical students were performing autopsies on the deceased right before they assisted mothers that were giving birth.

As an experiment, he had his students wash their hands with a chlorine-lime solution before working on other patients. As a result, the maternal death rates at the hospital dropped. However, he was not believed by the medical community at the time and he also refused to share his research, taking over 13 years to finally publish the study.

With this revelation, we now know why it is so important to wash your hands. With the environmental benefits that hand dryers offer, using hand dryers in toilets is a sanitary option that will continue to evolve for years to come.