You probably wash your hands more times a day than you can count, but if you’re like most people, it’s probably more of a cursory rinse with a little soap than an actual scrub. For most of us, handwashing has become something we do so frequently that it’s not even really something we think about. So even though you’re probably thinking, “I’m a capable adult and I’ve been washing my hands for decades just fine, thank you very much,” let’s take a quick refresher course!
What Are You Washing Your Hands With?
Hand sanitizers have become all the rage as a quick fix for grimy hands, but did you know that doctors actually recommend good old soap and water over alcohol-based sanitizers? This isn’t to say that hand sanitizers aren’t better than nothing when you don’t have soap and water available, but there are certain types of germs that they can’t completely eliminate that soap and water can, most notably the noroviruses that cause food poisoning and stomach flu.
While we’re talking about soap, though, let’s talk about triclosan, which is the active ingredient in most antibacterial hand soaps. Triclosan has been in use in antibacterial soaps for decades – since the 1970s, to be specific. But numerous studies have brought the ingredient under suspicion, suggesting that triclosan is a likely endocrine disruptor. The FDA is currently reviewing triclosan, and while they have yet to reach a conclusion, the FDA has said that there are no additional benefits to using a soap with triclosan than one without it. So why take the risk?
How Are You Washing Your Hands?
Okay, so you have your soap and water. Now what? If you’re squirting some soap into your palms, rubbing them together under the faucet for a few seconds, and rinsing, it’s time to reassess.
You want to wash all the surfaces of your hands – including around and under your nails and up to your wrists – for at least thirty seconds before rinsing in hot water.
Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the bathroom door to avoid re-dirtying your hands.
For an excellent crash-course on optimal handwashing technique, check out this infographic: