After all these years, it’s finally dawned on me what the most worthless invention in the world is.  The funny thing is, this invention has swept the Western world faster than it takes American politicians to point fingers at everyone but themselves (that’s pretty fast!).  The Pet RockYou may think I speak of the Pet Rock, but even the Pet Rock has more worth than this invention.  With the Pet Rock I at least get companionship, which makes me feel better about myself as a person (and less lonely).  This invention is much more worthless.

What makes an invention not worthless?  It adds value to your life in some way, shape or form (be it time, money, environment, or *cough* feelings).  Enough dancing around; below is the most worthless invention known to mankind:
HandDryer
So let’s break it down…

The big picture first:

How many times have you used one of these (any variant of these), and still wiped your hands off on your pants as you exit the restroom?

Have you ever washed your hands and dried them USING AN AIR DRYER, with its preset amount of blowing time, and NOT used anything additional to finish the job (like your pants or the table cloth)?

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Truthfully speaking?  For me it makes, oh let’s see, 100% of the time my pants get molested.  So 100% of the time, I have to take the time to finish a half-assed job that a machine has promised to do, by wiping my hands on my pants.  Hell, I could fart on my hands and they would air dry faster…

So to the obvious point: it doesn’t work to begin with.  It’s like loading up a Mars-bound rocket ship with all this gucci shit, like over-the-top life-support, treadmills, gourmet food, video games with plasma TV’s… but if the thing’s too heavy to take off and get to Mars, then I’m pretty sure the rocket fell well short of its goal.  This machine has only one goal: to dry your hands.  And that it does NOT do, no matter how cutting-edge it is.

So even though it can’t even do what it’s been invented to do, perhaps there’s some other saving grace that I’m just completely overlooking.  Let’s evaluate this a little deeper to see just what value this invention does add…

Time:

Press the button and you get 30 excruciating seconds of jet-decibel noise and hot air.  The 30 seconds expires and the water that could have left my hands must’ve gotten transferred to my ear canal, because I now can’t hear so well… and my hands are still wet (maybe not out-of-the-pool wet, but still I-got-caught-in-a-downpour wet).  30 seconds.  I timed it.  I can pee faster than the time it takes to dry my hands off with this glorified hair blower.  What time value is added in that?

It takes me 5 seconds to wipe my hands dry with a cloth or paper towel.

No time savings here.  Winner: my pants (or paper towels)

Money:

This thing (per the label in the picture) uses 2300 watts to operate.  I could *almost* get back to the year 1955 on 2300 watts!  Ok, not really.  However, in the 30 seconds the thing is running, about 18 watt-hours of electricity used (2300 watts / [30/3600]hrs) – that equates to paying about 0.5¢ per use (which means, if you actually want dry hands, you’re probably talking 2¢ and 2 minutes of your life that you can never get back).  The newer machines seem to have gotten the energy down to about 1600 watts to not dry your hands – about 0.3¢ per use.

Now let’s buy a carton of recycled paper towels.  Here we have 4000 recycled paper towels for $26.  One paper towels costs 0.6¢ per use.

In terms of fully drying your hands, we’re looking at 1¢ regardless of the method.    Winner: too close to call… (but factor in this and time, and I think my pants still have quite the edge)

Environmentally:

I have to admit, figuring out the environmental impact of each is next to impossible.  For one, there are so many variables to take into account (like what goes into manufacturing, lifespan of use, pollutant byproducts, and energy for sustained usage).  Secondly, almost all the studies done were conducted by research teams that were sponsored by these air drying companies.  For example, this MIT study seemed promising until I realized it was sponsored by Dyson, and guess what won out as the most environmentally friendly?  The Dyson, of course… sounds pretty suspect to me.  If the findings indicated anything else, I bet the research would have been shuffled under the carpet of non-existence.

The most unbiased research I could find (and I couldn’t even get the actual numbers or spreadsheet) was here, stating

…standard hot-air dryers use 5% less energy than paper towels in the first year, and about 20% less over five years. If high-efficiency dryers like the Airblade really provided acceptable drying in ten seconds, then they’d use 80% less energy.

Additionally, there are claims made by the-sky-is-falling environmentalists and hand drying companies that paper towels leave a greater carbon footprint than air dryers (whatever that means – cow farts probably overtake even the mighty paper towel in terms of carbon footprint).  Their “research” also shows paper towels create a few tons of extra waste and about 100 felled trees per city per year.

Vague, I know.  But I’ll concede this one with a little skepticism. Winner: The World’s most worthless invention

But allow me one last shot of defiance: canoes have almost a zero-carbon-footprint whereas the airlines, I’m sure, have a staggering carbon footprint… so which are you going to utilize to visit England or go on a vacation to Hawaii, huh?

And now for the kicker, which I didn’t even think about until I got pissed off enough to research why these hand dryers seem to be all the rage.

Hygiene and Comfort:

People wash their hands in order to prevent infection and kill unwanted bacteria.  Of course, after you wash your hands you must dry your hands.  I found a study done in Australia that was published in a peer-review journal… sounds pretty unbiased to me.  I find the results almost quite humorous.

Air dryers almost encourage bacteria to grow on your hands!  That’s right.  Bacteria thrive in moist environments, and when you don’t dry your hands all the way with these worthless inventions, you are increasing the amount of any given bacteria remaining from the soap-sudded wash.  Rubbing your hands together underneath the air squirt further exacerbates the spread.  Moreover, the air driers agitate airborne bacteria offering a chance of contamination throughout the immediate area.  Lastly (according to this report), the air driers are more likely to cause your hands to become irritated, excessively dry (apparently well after use, since these machines barely do any drying), rough, and red.

In contrast, paper towels were found to actually reduce the amount of bacteria on the hands after washing, especially in the fingertip area, while leaving aerosol bacteria to themselves to settle elsewhere (rather than continually stir them up).

The paper says it all in the conclusion: “from a hygiene standpoint, paper towels are superior to air dryers.”    Winner: paper towels, with my pants a close second

This is almost too funny to be true!  So if you accidentally peed on your hands and want a little residual to take home with you, definitely use a hand dryer.

Where do we stand now, after ignoring the “does it work” test and evaluating any value this invention can add to our lives?  I think it’s quite clear that it barely adds any value whatsoever.  So why do these stupid things plague every bathroom?

Ok.  I’m off my soapbox…

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