Washing your hands is a no-brainer. It’s such a simple thing, you’d be surprised that so many people do it wrong. The truth is, washing your hands the right way does take some thought (and effort).
Why does washing your hands matter?
Washing your hands with soap and water prevents the spread of germs and illness. Bacteria from everyday life (especially living in New York City) easily gets on your hands, which can then be transferred to your eyes and mouth. For example, it’s common knowledge to wash your hands after using the bathroom because fecal (poop) matter contains a lot of germs. One gram of human poop -- which is about the weight of a paper clip -- can contain up to one trillion germs.
Does washing your hands make a difference?
Yes, it definitely does. Research shows that communities that wash their hands can significantly reduce the rate of people getting sick from diarrhea by 31 percent, and reduce respiratory illness (like the common cold) by up to 20 percent. And when it comes to you personally, you can protect yourself from getting sick.
What about hand sanitizer?
Generally speaking, washing your hands with soap and water is better than using hand sanitizer. If soap and water isn’t available to you (especially when you’re on the subway), it’s best to use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
How to Wash Your Hands Correctly
1. Rinse your hands with clean running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap to your hands.
It’s important to use clean running water when washing hands. If you use water that’s been stagnant or has been sitting around, it has a higher chance of containing bacteria. And, using soap with water has been shown to be more effective than water alone. Soap lifts soil and microbes from skin, and people tend to scrub hands more thoroughly when using soap, which further removes germs.
2. Lather and scrub your hands together with soap.
Make sure you cover all parts of your hands with soap, including the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails, so it gets clean.
3. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds!
Research suggests that washing hands for about 15-30 seconds removes more germs from hands than washing for shorter periods. If you don’t know how to time yourself, hum (or sing!) “Happy Birthday” two times through.
4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Soap helps remove bacteria and dirt from your skin, but it’s necessary to wash off the soap when you’re done too.
5. Dry your hands with a clean town or air dry them.
Not only is it more convenient for you to just dry your hands, but drying your hands also prevents the spread of germs. Bacteria can be more easily passed through wet hands.
Information for this blog was derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.