Article by Kelly Hernandez of RXemedy
1. You’re Reaching For the Soap First
When it comes to hand washing, you’re on one team or the other. Either you wet your hands first or you pump the soap into your hands first. While you may think it makes no difference, the CDC recommends that you wet your hands first. Your wet skin can more easily absorb the soap, which leads to a better lather and more effective removal of bacteria.
The Remedy Rx: It can be hard to break a habit, especially if you’ve been using soap before you turn on the faucet for years now. However, it’s time to start switching it up and getting your hands wet first. This will ensure the soap can lather and do its job.
2. You’re Not Scrubbing for Long Enough
A public restroom isn’t exactly a warm and inviting place to spend your time. The unpleasant environment can make you rush through your hand washing routine. But if you don’t spend enough time scrubbing your hands, you’re really not doing much. Without dedicating the proper amount of time to lathering and scrubbing, the task is useless and isn’t effective at killing germs or microbes on the surface of your skin.
The Remedy Rx: According to the Mayo Clinic, after you wet and soap up your hands, you should spend about 20 seconds lathering them. A popular way to keep track of the time you need to lather is by singing the “Happy Birthday” song. Rub your hands together vigorously throughout the entire song to ensure the soap has time to activate and kill germs.
3. You’re Not Using Enough Soap
4. You’re Not Drying
Even the most perfect hand washing routine is useless if you don’t dry your hands. According to the CDC, “Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands.” If you have to grab the door handle or other potentially germy objects in the public bathroom with wet hands, you’re simply re-contaminating your hands with microbes that you just worked so hard to wash away.
The Remedy Rx: Use the paper towels, if provided in the public restroom. Even if you’re in a hurry, take the time to ensure your hands have completely dried before leaving the restroom or touching any surfaces. Don’t touch any surfaces or yourself until your hands have completely dried.
5. You’re Not Washing Enough
If you’re only washing your hands after using a public restroom, you’re simply not doing it enough to keep nasty germs at bay. You should wash your hands anytime you feel they’re dirty or have been exposed to germs.
The Remedy Rx: There are specific times when you should wash your hands to prevent the potential spread of germs or illness. The CDC recommends washing your hands at these key times:
- Before and after caring for someone who’s sick.
- Before, during, and after preparing or eating food.
- Before and after treating a wound.
- After changing a diaper or assisting a child in using the toilet.
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- After touching an animal, animal waste, or animal feed.
- After touching garbage.
6. You’re Neglecting Your Fingernails
Even if you’re careful enough to take an entire 20 seconds to lather your hands, your hand washing routine is ineffective if you’re not also involving your fingernails. Germs and bacteria can easily get stuck under your fingernails and if you touch surfaces, then chew on your nails or touch your face, you’re still spreading these germs.
The Remedy Rx: Dr. Marty suggests “To clean underneath your nails, take your right hand and rub the tips of your fingers on the palm of your left hand and vice versa.” Including this motion in your soap lathering process can ensure you eliminate the germs that get trapped under your fingernails.
7. You’re Relying on Hand Sanitizer Alone
While hand sanitizer can be helpful at eliminating germs when you don’t have the amenities for a full hand wash, you shouldn’t solely rely on it to keep you germ-free. According to the CDC, “alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t kill all types of germs, such as a stomach bug called norovirus, some parasites, and Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea.” These sanitizers also may not remove harmful chemicals, like pesticides or heavy metals.
The Remedy Rx: Hand sanitizer can be a quick way to eliminate germs before and after you visit a loved one who’s sick or if you don’t have access to hand washing amenities. However, if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, hand sanitizer simply won’t do the trick. You’ll need to find water and soap and thoroughly wash your hands.
8.You’re Touching the Faucet Right After
A study conducted by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) asked 22 families to swab common household items in their homes. These items were tested for many contaminants, including yeast, mold and coliform bacteria, which is a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E. coli. It was concluded that 9% of the household faucets contained these harmful bacteria, which can cause illness. If you wash your hands, but then touch the faucet right after, you could still be exposing yourself to these germs.
The Remedy Rx: Most public restrooms are equipped with automatic faucets, which prevents you from having to touch them at all. However, if you’re in a bathroom without an automatic faucet, be careful about what you touch after washing your hands. If possible, use a clean paper towel to turn off the faucet after washing.
9. You’re Touching the Door Handle Right After You Wash
When your hands are clean, grabbing the door handle to get out of the public restroom may only contaminate them yet again. A study conducted by Dr. Lennox Archibald, MD, Ph.D. from the University of Florida studied bacteria contamination in public restrooms and aircraft lavatories. His findings concluded that surfaces, including the door handles, were contaminated with staph, e. Coli, and Enterococcus bacteria. These germs can cause illnesses that result in diarrhea and other digestive ailments.
The Remedy Rx: Use a clean paper towel to open the door after you’ve washed your hands. Don’t touch the door handle unnecessarily and attempt to push it open with your foot instead of your hands, if possible.
10. You Only Use Hot Water
The age-old myth is that scalding hot water is the only way to clean your hands from bacteria. However, for hot water to be effective at killing bacteria, it would have to be 104 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s way too hot for your skin to stand! According to Amanda R. Carrico from Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment, “It’s certainly true that heat kills bacteria, but if you were going to use hot water to kill them it would have to be way too hot for you to tolerate.”
The Remedy Rx: Cold water can be just as effective as hot water for removing microbes from your hands, as long as you follow proper hand washing protocol. Use enough soap, lather thoroughly, rinse well, and completely dry your hands and you’ll be clean, even with cold water.
11. You Don’t Clean Your Bar of Soap
If you’re washing your hands at home, you may be using a bar of soap that sits next to your sink. Bacteria love wet and warm surfaces, so your soap may attract some microbes that can hang out on the bar’s surface. If you’re following proper hand washing procedures, these bacteria more than likely won’t transfer to your hands. However, keeping your bar of soap clean can guarantee you won’t have to worry about the germs in your soap dish.
The Remedy Rx: It’s pretty simple to keep your bar of soap clean. Elaine L. Larson, PhD from Columbia University’s School of Nursing suggests, “Rinse off the bar in running water before lathering up to wash away the germy goop. And always store soap out of water (i.e. not in a wet bathtub), allowing it to dry between uses. That way, there’s no moist environment for germs to flock to in the first place.”
12. You Think Antibacterial is Better
We hate to burst your bubble but “antibacterial” soaps might be a sham. After many studies, the CDC concluded “that there is no added health benefit for consumers (this does not include professionals in the healthcare setting) using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap.”
As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruling in September 2016 that 19 ingredients used in “antibacterial” soaps are just as effective as non-antibacterial soap and water. These products are no longer allowed to be marketed to the public as “antibacterial” and some of these ingredients may even make our bodies resistant to antibiotics.
The Remedy Rx: While buzzwords like “antibacterial” are tempting, regular soap works just fine. As long as you’re taking the time to follow proper hand washing protocol with fresh running water and soap, you’re eliminating bacteria from your hands.
13. You’re Neglecting the Backs of Your Hands
According to the CDC, “Lathering and scrubbing your hands creates friction, which helps to remove dirt, grease, and germs from your skin.” When you’re in the act of vigorously rubbing your palms together, it’s important not to miss other parts of your hands. The back of your hands have exposure to germs too, so be sure you don’t neglect them in your washing routine.
The Remedy Rx: It’s easy to get stuck in a hand wash routine that includes bad habits like forgetting to scrub the backs of your hands. Revamp your hand washing technique to be sure you’re including this area in your 20-second scrub down.
Thanks to Kelly Hernandez for this timely article.