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4 Facts About Handwashing You May Have Not Known
Even though it’s National Handwashing Awareness Week, you probably already know the importance of having good hygiene all year round. Everyone has been taught that you should wash your hands before and after meals to prevent illnesses.
However, there is some information that is not as commonly recognized when it comes to handwashing. Here are some interesting facts that you may have not known about washing your hands.
Hand Sanitizer Kills Germs, Water Doesn’t
Many people view washing your hands with hand sanitizer as one and the same with soap and water. The myth is that when you wash up, no matter the way you clean, you’re killing germs and making your hands squeaky clean.
However, there is a difference between the two. According to an article written by the AARP, hand sanitizer kills germs but doesn’t actually clean your hands. That means if you use hand sanitizer, you’re eliminating bacteria but your hands aren’t getting rid of substances such as dirt or oil. They also state that hand sanitizers are less effective if your hands are visibly dirty or have chemicals such as pesticides on them.1
Alternatively, soap and water cleans your hands and works to break down germs. When you use soap, lathering your hands will help weaken germs and remove them from your skin. Instead of killing all of the germs like sanitizer, they will instead be flushed down the drain in the water. Your hands will also be cleaned of dirt and other substances.2
Generally, it is best to wash your hands with soap and water because of the added benefits of cleaning your hands. However, if you find yourself unable to find a clean place to wash up, carrying around a bottle of hand sanitizer is a good way to protect yourself from illnesses.
Only 5% of People Wash Their Hands Correctly
You might be thinking that you’re someone who prides themselves in washing their hands to stay healthy. But did you know that only 5% of people wash their hands correctly after using the bathroom?3
This can be worrisome, especially since it’s currently cold and flu season. Protecting yourself and others by washing your hands is important to keeping you and your community healthy all season long.
A study from the Michigan State University found that people wash their hands, on average, for six seconds. They also found that people avoided washing their hands in dirty sinks and were less likely to clean their hands later in the day.4
Even so, this means that most people think that they’re washing their hands correctly even if they aren’t. Here are some tips to help you wash your hands better:
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should wash for twenty seconds for effective germ removal. By washing and lathering your hands, you’ll break down most of the bacteria on your hands.2
- Pay attention to how long you wash. Since most people don’t wash for enough time, try to count how many seconds that you do. Over time, you should form the habit of washing for the recommended twenty seconds.
- Use the right techniques to fully wash your hands. In order to make sure your hands are clean, you’ll want to scrub between your fingers, palms, the tops of your hand, and underneath your fingertips. This will ensure you remove all the dirt and grime from your hands.
Bacteria is Easily Transmitted by Touch
Everything has bacteria on it—from doorknobs to car handles to the merchandise at the mall. And even though there’s millions of bacteria on everything, we just can’t see them.
Some bacteria is more harmful than others, which is why it’s important for you to consistently wash your hands. If someone coughs or sneezes on something and you touch it, you’ll pick up their bacteria. When you don’t clean your hands after this, you could expose your nose, eyes, or mouth to the germs when you place your hand on your face.
Bacteria thrives best on surfaces that are wet such as sponges, cloths, and carpets. This is because the wet surfaces are a potential breeding ground where bacteria can multiply and build a habitat for themselves. Surfaces that are hard such as glass, countertops, and tiles make it harder for bacteria to survive.5
A few tips for keeping bacteria out of the surfaces you touch include:
- Clean your household regularly. Consistently keep your carpets, towels, trash cans, and any other areas where bacteria can thrive clean. This includes checking that these items are always dried and properly sanitized each week to ensure that bacteria doesn’t grow on them.
- Avoid touching your face. Every day, we touch objects around us. Avoiding touching your face can help prevent bacteria that causes illnesses from transmitting from your hands into your nose, eyes, and mouth.
- If something smells like it needs to be clean, it probably should. If your carpet smells like there could be something under it, then you’ll want to clean it. You should also always take out your trash frequently and clean your travel cups often.
Antibacterial Soap isn’t More Effective
Sometimes when you’re looking to keep germs out of your household, you might be tempted to buy the bottle of soap that says “antibacterial.” After all, if it’s made to kill bacteria, then it should prevent illnesses more effectively, right?
The Food and Drug Administration has officially stated that there is no research that confirms antibacterial soap cleans better than regular soap. They are even looking into changing how antibacterial products are marketed because they aren’t more effective.6
Furthermore, antibacterial products include ingredients such as Triclosan, which prevents bacterial growth. Triclosan helps bacteria stop replicating after you wash your hands, but there are many researchers concerned about the long-term health effects of exposure to this ingredient. Some researchers believe it could potentially affect the body’s hormones.7
Because there hasn’t been any studies done to test the effectiveness of antibacterial versus regular soap, your family is better off using brands that don’t contain extra ingredients that could potentially have long-term health risks. Why expose your loved ones to ingredients that are currently debated by scientists?
Wash Your Hands!
Here at Saber Healthcare, we teach our staff the importance of washing their hands. After all, we want our team to provide clean and hygienic care to residents.
To learn more about the care our nurses can provide to your loved one, check out our skilled nursing page.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- Nania, Rachel. “7 Things to Know About Hand Sanitizer.” AARP, aarp.org. June 12th, 2020. Accessed December 4th, 2020. Link: https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/hand-sanitizer.html
- “Frequent Questions About Handwashing.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed December 4th, 2020. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/faqs.html
- Nordqvist, Christian. “Only 5% Wash Their Hands Properly After Going to the Toilet.” Healthline Media, Medical News Today. June 12th, 2013. Accessed December 4th, 2020. Link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261875#1
- Henion, Andy, and Carl Borchgrevink. “Eww! Only 5% Wash their Hands Correctly.” Michigan State University, MSUToday. June 10th, 2013. Accessed December 4th, 2020. Link: https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/eww-only-5-percent-wash-hands-correctly/#:~:text=The%20study%2C%20based%20on%20observations%20of%203%2C749%20people,hospitality%20business%20and%20lead%20investigator%20on%20the%20study.
- Hinckley, Michael. “How Long Do Bacteria Live on Surfaces?” Leaf Group Ltd, Healthfully. July 27th, 2017. Accessed December 4th, 2020. Link: https://healthfully.com/long-do-bacteria-live-surfaces-4679612.html
- “Antibacterial Soap? You Can Skip It, Use Plain Soap and Water.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration, fda.gov. May 16th, 2019. Accessed December 4th, 2020. Link: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/antibacterial-soap-you-can-skip-it-use-plain-soap-and-water
- Doohan, Brittany. “Is Antibacterial Soap More Effective than Regular Soap?” HealthiNation, healthination.com. March 5th, 2018. Accessed December 4th, 2020. Link: https://www.healthination.com/health/antibacterial-soap-vs-regular-soap/