Importance of Hand Washing
Never underestimate the benefits of washing hands. Not washing your hands properly can leave you vulnerable to germs. Lathering up is one of the best things you can do to prevent the spread of infectious germs. Make sure you are not making these common handwashing mistakes.
You Don’t Scrub Your Hands Long Enough
A Michigan State University study found that only about 5 percent of people wash their hands properly—that means over 95 percent of people don’t wash hands long enough to effectively remove germs. In order to effectively kill germs, you need to scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, if not more.
Soap won’t help remove germs if you rinse it off immediately. You need to scrub for at least 20 to 30 seconds. Rub both your palms together, the backs of your hands, and in between your fingers. One overlooked spot is under your fingernails. Fingernails tend to pick up dirt and trap bacteria and viruses. Make sure to clean under them too. Cover all sides of both sets of fingers.
Dangers from not Washing Hands
It may seem harmless to skip handwashing at times. But failing to wash your hands, especially after using the bathroom can leave you susceptible to harmful germs. Here is a hand washing fact—if you decide to leave the bathroom without a wash that means you will be dragging out the germs you picked up from the door lock, toilet flusher, and other surfaces. And worse, you will deposit those germs onto anything or anyone you subsequently touch. The skin makes for a good barrier between you and the germs. But mucosal areas like your mouth, eyes, and genitals are more porous. So, when you touch your face or privates with your unwashed hands, chances of germs being transferred to those areas increase manifold. And not to mention the spread of infectious diseases through contact.
Also, you should wash your hands before eating or preparing a meal, so the food doesn’t get contaminated either.
You Don’t Use Soap or Liquid Handwash
Soap does a lot more than just lathering up your hands and making them smell nice. Soap (or liquid soap) is specially formulated to lift germs and dirt off your skin. The science behind this is that the surfaces of bacteria and viruses are partially made of fatty materials. The ingredients in soap create a chemical reaction that grabs onto the germs, so they are rinsed off—in other words, displaced—with the lather.
Alcohol-based formulations can kill more germs much faster than plain soap. You can choose to use soap or liquid handwash—both are equally effective. The thing with liquid soap is that it is less likely to be contaminated. So, whichever you choose, make sure to use some form of soap while washing your hands.
If you are in a pinch, a hand sanitizer can help too. Make sure it is more than 60% alcohol. However, even the best hand sanitizers tend to be less effective on super-dirty hands. That is why good old soap and water is always the better choice.
You Don’t Dry Off Completely
If you are not drying your hands completely after washing, it is a job half done. Germs flourish in a damp environment, so even if you have used soap and water, you make yourself vulnerable to contamination if you don’t dry your hands thoroughly. Use a clean towel to dry your hands. Use paper towels whenever you can—that way, you can just dry off your hands and dispose of the paper towel without the need for airdrying it. A damp towel becomes a harbor for germs, so your best bet is to use disposable paper towels.
After you have dried off your hands, do not touch bathroom surfaces. Faucets, countertops and other bathroom surfaces are breeding grounds for harmful bacteria. Use a clean paper towel to close the faucet and open the bathroom door, especially if it is a public restroom.
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