(WBTV) Thinking about heading into a public restroom and washing your hands? Scientists at a company that produces and markets hygiene solutions says you'll probably walk away with more germs than before.
Gojo Industries Inc., the maker of Purell hand sanitizer, says a quarter of the soap in public restrooms is so contaminated that it leaves your hands dirtier than before you washed them.
One out of four refillable bulk soap dispensers in the community is contaminated with unsafe levels of bacteria, the company says in an online campaign.
NOTE: The company produces and sells soap refills that come with a new nozzle, which it is promoting
It points to a 2011 study published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology paper for the American Society for Microbiology.
In an elementary school-based field study, researchers discovered that bacteria on the hands of students and staff increased by nearly 26-fold after washing with soap from contaminated bulk-soap-refillable dispensers.
The bacteria found in contaminated dispensers were there in concentrations of about 1,000 times what the industry recommends.
The germs remaining on the hands are easily transferred to other surfaces, the company reminds people.
"Even worse, once a dispenser becomes contaminated it is impossible to eliminate the bacteria in the dispenser, even with aggressive cleaning agents, such as bleach," Gojo Industries stated.
It says the contamination is the result of a fundamental design flaw in the dispenser. The same container and nozzle are used indefinitely, usually without cleaning in between refilling - which is as recommended.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infections. The CDC has a "Guideline for Hand Hygiene" posted on its website.
"Do not add soap to a partially empty soap dispenser," the guidelines state. "This practice of 'topping off' dispensers can lead to bacterial contamination of soap."
GOJO Industries says sealed soap dispensers, where the soap is sealed into a bag or cartridge at the factory and never opened in the bathroom, are safer and less prone to contamination by harmful bacteria than refillable soap dispensers.