Washing your hands is something we do every day—we wash our hands before eating, after using the washroom, while we’re cooking, we teach our kids the importance of wash their hands… It’s fair to say that it’s something we’re all pretty familiar with.
But – have we ever really stopped and taken a closer look at why we wash our hands so frequently? Or—are we doing it properly? Or—are we overdoing it?
And because there’s so much to cover on this topic we’ve partnered up with our friend Anna at Gross Science where she takes a closer look at what it means to be clean, and the role that hand washing plays in the microscopic playground that is our hygiene.
We’ve all been there, it’s flu season, and we end up catching a cold and tracing it back to something – public transit, a visit to our kid’s school, or a meeting at work where that sick person decided to NOT stay at home.
The reality is that keeping our hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick, and more importantly, spreading germs to others.
This is true both from person to object, person to person and ultimately to multiple people.
A quick sneeze while on the subway, a cough into the hand while preparing lunch in the office kitchen, blowing your nose at the local coffee shop, going to the bathroom at the movies—all of these have the potential risk for the spreading of germs.
Germs from unwashed hands can linger on objects, get into food and drink, and in some cases can even begin to multiply under the right conditions.
Washing your hands regularly can prevent up to 20% of common illnesses, and up to 50% in those with weakened immune systems such as the elderly and young children.
But how often should we be washing our hands? And, are we overdoing it with the hygiene thing? For answers to these questions, I encourage you to check out this video right here from Anna over at Gross Science who looks at what we really mean when we talk about “being clean”.
How to Wash Your Hands
Ok, we get it, we need to wash our hands when we’re sick, before we eat, after a sneezing fit… but is there a better way of doing it? Current research suggests that yes, there is a better way of doing it, and here it is…
As is customary, we’ll start by using clean running water. The key here is of course using clean water.
It’s also interesting to note that using hot water for hand washing has not been proven to remove germs any better than cold water. So really, the temperature of the water you use is simply a matter of personal comfort.
LATHER & SCRUB
Always use soap to wash your hands. Soap contains surfactants which lift dirt and microbes from the skin. Lathering and scrubbing also create friction, which further helps remove dirt and microbes.
Remember that microbes can be on any part of the hand, so remember to get into those hard to reach places like under the nails and between the fingers.
Current research suggests that washing your hands for about 20 seconds is the ideal amount of time to remove germs.
Once again, the most important point here is to use clean running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel, or air dry them. And guys, I’m a big fan of good old paper towel for drying my hands (confirm with MM), but let me know in the comments down below: do you prefer air drying or paper towel?
Just a quick note on sanitizers, they’re all the rage right now —I mean, they seem to have sanitizer stands everywhere these days, in malls, movie theatres, schools and grocery stores!
So the deal is these alcohol-based hand sanitizers are great, they can quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands, but sanitizers don’t get rid of all types of germs. Washing your hands with soap and water is still the best way to reduce the number of microbes on them, but hand sanitizer will do in a pinch.
Check out Gross Science’s video: youtube.com/watch?v=CvXDYQnXUFs
A special thanks to Google’s Making & Science team (youtube.com/makingscience) for making this collaboration possible! #sciencegoals