Ever been grossed out, a la Seinfeld, by someone who visits the bathroom but doesn’t seem to know what washbasins are for? You need the iGene:
i-Gene [sic] is designed for washrooms or areas where hand hygiene is critical. It detects movement and after a given period of time (pre-delay setting) will play the following real voice message. “Please wash your hands before leaving this area.”
Usually, I’m not for any kind of nanny-state type stuff, but it does amaze me how few people (read: men) wash their hands after a spell in the bathroom. Now I’m up for not just installing an iGene in every bathroom but of having anti-bacterial handgel guns on either side of the door to fire at miscreants as they try to sneak out without performing any manual cleansing.
Of course, the solution is to fit decent hand dryers so that people a) don’t have to calculate the value of hygiene against the possibility of catching a cold from damp hands and b) can have fun drying their hands in a warm and powerful jet.
The other move would be to either install automatic doors so you don’t have to put your clean hands on a doorknob used by all the non-handwashing Poppys or to at least put a bin outside the bathroom so clean-minded folk have somewhere to discard the paper towel they have to use to open the door to avoid getting all bacterial again.
Are the days of the wet hand over? A few months ago I wrote in the WSJ about the Mitsubishi Jet Towel (subscription only; I did a version of the piece for the BBC World Service which you can download as a podcast here), which has been drying hands effectively around Asia for some time, now arriving on U.S. shores:
I spotted it when I was gorging in a food court — a plastic-cased, cream-colored, wall-mounted device that looked like an attractive waste-disposal unit or, possibly, a mailbox. The only clue that it was actually a hand dryer was its proximity to the wash basins. Using it was like a glimpse of hand-drying heaven. Instead of sticking your hands below a single air jet, you put them inside a sort of trough inside the unit, between two jets that start blowing automatically onto both sides of your hands.
Instead of searing blasts of hot air that shrivel the skin and give your hands a weird burning sensation, the Jet Towel envelops them in a strong but muted cushion of air, circulating within the trough. Instead of rubbing your hands together vigorously in the vain hope of dislodging the damp, you just move the hands up and down slowly. Instead of the water dripping off your hands onto the floor, it falls to the bottom of the trough and down a pipe into the base of the unit. Instead of the usual half-minute or so of frantic hand-rubbing, followed by some pant-wiping, pull out your hands after a few seconds and they’re dry. Really.
Now it looks like it has a rival, in the form of the Dyson Airblade. Right now I’m not quite sure what the difference is between the two devices — they both look remarkably similar. I’m still waiting for word from Dyson’s PR people. But anything that gets our hands dryer quicker and more hygienically can only be good news. Coverage at engadget and The Guardian.
Here’s a podcast I did for the BBC World Service on the Mitsubish Jet Towel, the only automatic hand dryer I’ve come across that actually dries your hands. Here it is.