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How to Properly Wash Your Hands

January 29, 2014

how to properly wash your hands

Learning how to properly wash your hands is probably one of the easiest, yet often forgotten ways of preventing the spread and contraction of disease.

Did you know that your hands may be deadly weapons? It is true. Your fingers may be harboring a veritable rogue’s gallery of potentially deadly characters. From dangerous viruses like pneumonia to nasty bacterial infections caused by staph or even E-coli, your hands can be lethal weapons. Shaking someone’s hand, may, in fact, be one of the most risky things you do in a day. So learning how to properly wash your hands, can literally be a lifesaver.

Common Forms of Bacteria and Viruses Are Hitching a Ride on Your Hands

According to the Center for Disease Control, the simple act of washing your hands for 20 seconds – about the same time as it takes to sing a round of “Happy Birthday” – can help ensure that you live to see your next one. Proper hand washing really does save lives. There are over 200 common forms of bacteria that call your digits “Home Sweet Home” and they can be evicted (destroyed or at least removed) by using hot soapy water. It should be noted that hot water does not really kill germs (to get it hot enough to kill them would mean scalding your skin), but it does more to loosen and remove them. If soap and water are not easily accessible, then the CDC advises using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands.

Icky Facts

A recent study demonstrated the disgusting truth about hand washing by applying a lotion to the hands of volunteers. It was visible only under special UV lamps that made the bacteria glow blue. The volunteers went about their day, not knowing that the lotion was really a test to see how often they washed their hands (twenty seconds of vigorous washing would have removed it). The study also tracked points of contact and bacteria on the surface of the volunteers’ hands.  Only after the end of the day did they see the disgusting results. Most of the volunteers were shocked by the amount of bacteria on their skin.

How To Properly Wash Your Hands

While there are all kinds of products vying for your attention on the store shelves, most are not necessarily any more effective than plain old soap and water. First, use hot water, soap up for at least 20 seconds, then rinse, and repeat. It is also a good idea not to touch the dirty handles of the faucet. Use your elbow or a paper towel to turn off the water. You also need to take care not to touch the bathroom door handle on your way out.

Sadly, many people (in fact, most, if studies are to be believed) do not wash their hands at all after using a restroom, or they do so poorly. Reaching for the door handle is like dipping your hands in a soup of germs. Washing your hands can seriously lower your risk of getting sick and spreading disease. So wash up!

References for How to Properly Wash Your Hands

Center for Disease Control. “Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives” retrieved on November 26, 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/

Harvard Health Publications “The Handiwork of Good Health” retrieved on November 26, 2013 from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2007/January/The_handiwork_of_good_health

Image Credit: peapod labs