Hand Washing Facts
- Purpose: To clean our hands and improve hygiene
- Particularly Important for: Health workers, doctors, nurses, dentists, chefs
- Diseases Which Helps to Prevent: The common cold, influenza, tuberculosis, chickenpox, measles
- Myths: That anti-bacterial soap is better than normal soap, that hand blow dryers are more hygienic than paper towels
- Statistics: 67% of public toilet users don’t wash their hands at all, and only 5% of people wash their hands thoroughly enough to rid themselves of pathogens or bacteria on the hands
- Technique: Rinse the hands in warm water, wash with soap and rub for 20 seconds, rinse again, dry with a paper towel, turn off the tap using a paper towel
- Soap Alternatives: Alcohol based hand sanitizer, ash, sand
- Health: Hand Washing Is Vital for Good Hygiene
- Health: Hand Washing Can Protect against Respiratory Illnesses
- Hygiene: Hand Washing Is Especially Important for Health Workers
- Advice: Water Is Not Enough, Because Fats and Proteins Don’t Dissolve in Water Alone
- Advice: Antibacterial Soap Is No More Effective than Regular Soap
- Science: If the Water Was Hot Enough to Actually Kill Bacteria, It Would Scald Your Hands
- Science: Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizers Can Kill up to 90% of Germs
- Advice: You Should Wash Your Hands for at Least 20 Seconds
- Advice: Dry Skin after Hand Washing Increases the Risk of Infection
- Hygiene: There Is Debate about Whether Hand Dryers or Paper Towels Are Cleaner
- Hand Washing Can Also Be a Symbolic Act
- Don’t Write off the Humble Bar of Soap
- Ash and Mud Can Be Used as a Soap Substitute
- Only 5% of Us Wash Our Hands for Long Enough
- In the USA, Only 67% Wash Their Hands at all After Using the Restroom!
- Hand Sanitizer Gels Come in Tons of Cool Scents
Hand Washing Is Vital for Good Hygiene
When it comes to hand washing facts, the first point to make is that usually, hand washing is the cleaning of one’s hands for hygienic purposes. Whether using just water, soapy water, hand sanitizer or other means, we clean our hands to try and rid them of dirt and germs. This is very important because countless studies show that hand washing is one of the most effective things we can do to prevent the spreading of disease. Pathogens such as bacteria and viruses are often transferred by touch, but hand washing significantly reduces the chances of this happening. As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states, “It is well documented that one of the most important measures for preventing the spread of pathogens is effective hand washing”.
Hand Washing Can Protect against Respiratory Illnesses
In particular, respiratory illnesses such as influenza or the common cold are often transferred by touch. This can occur as a result of infected individuals touching their noses, mouths and eyes, or coughing and sneezing into tissues and so on. Then, without washing their hands, they proceed to touch other objects and people. Rather disgustingly, a significant number of diseases are transferred through fecal-oral routes! Again, however, hand washing can help to prevent this. Forms of disease which hand washing can help to prevent include measles, chickenpox, and tuberculosis. Overall, if you’re feeling ill, washing your hands is the biggest favor you can do for the people around you!
Hand Washing Is Especially Important for Health Workers
Since hand washing facts show that the spread of diseases can often be prevented if proper hygiene is observed, it’s unsurprising that this procedure is especially important for anyone in the health industry. Doctors, nurses, dentists and medics, therefore, adhere to rigorous hand washing standards. In addition, it is also very important that anyone working within the food industry is diligent about hand washing. Sometimes, while cooking, we handle things which we know can contain dangerous pathogens − raw chicken, for example, which is often infected with salmonella bacteria. Washing our hands thoroughly after handling such ingredients can help us avoid unpleasant cases of food poisoning.
Water Is Not Enough, Because Fats and Proteins Don’t Dissolve in Water Alone
When it comes to hand washing facts, one of the most important is that water alone is not enough to effectively and hygienically remove germs. This is because if harmful micro-organisms cling to the hands, they are found within organic soil. This soil contains fats and proteins which do not dissolve easily in water, so H20 alone is not enough. Instead, it’s important to use soap and detergents. Common opinion would have it that soap can somehow “kill” germs. But, in fact, hand washing facts indicate that soap actually acts to reduce barriers to solution, and so makes these fats and proteins dissolve more easily in water. For this reason, soap does not work so well alone − flowing water and soap together are a much more effective combination, as the two help to wash the germs away from your skin.
Antibacterial Soap Is No More Effective than Regular Soap
Some commonly mistaken hand washing facts relate to the particular types of soap we should use. In recent years there have been many antibacterial soaps available on the market which claim to particularly target bacteria and provide an extra deep cleaning effect. However, a comprehensive analysis by the School of Public Health at the University of Oregon suggested that plain soaps are just as effective as anti-bacterial ones for reducing instances of illness.
If the Water Was Hot Enough to Actually Kill Bacteria, It Would Scald Your Hands
There are some more popular myths which often pass as hand washing facts. It is commonly believed, for example, that hot water helps to kill bacteria and other germs on your hands. In fact, this is only true at a temperature range that would be painful, and would even injure your skin. At the level of warmth which we can comfortably stand, nothing is done to actively kill bacteria. Don’t despair though − you should still aim to wash with warm water. This is because, while it has no effect on the bacteria itself, warm soapy water is more effective than its cold equivalent at removing the natural oils in your hands. Since these oils tend to cling onto soil and bacteria, washing them away means washing away more germs, too.
Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizers Can Kill up to 90% of Germs
As we have seen from some of our hand washing facts so far, there are several common myths and misconceptions regarding washing our hands with soap and water. There is also a lot of compelling evidence that many of us do not wash our hands for long enough, or under the right conditions, to be effective. But, luckily, in recent years a solution has come onto the market which seems to be not only more effective as a means of eradicating germs, but also faster and easier for daily use.
This solution is alcohol based hand sanitizer, a hygiene agent which doesn’t need water to act. These rubs are getting more and more popular, since they are so easy to rub into the hands and don’t require a towel to dry. They are formed with either isopropyl alcohol or ethanol, along with a thickening agent to decrease the drying effect of the alcohol.
These rubs contain a minimum of 60-95% alcohol, and have been shown to be very effective. Studies suggest that 30 seconds after using one of these hand gels or rubs, 99.97% of bacteria on the hands are killed. Unfortunately, however, they are less effective against certain viruses, including the Norovirus which causes many strands of gastroenteritis.
You Should Wash Your Hands for at Least 20 Seconds
If you’re brushing up on your hand washing facts, one thing you’re probably asking is − how do I properly wash my hands? To begin, you should rinse your hands with warm water, being sure to include the wrists and forearms, and making sure your hands stay lower so that contaminated water can move downwards. Use approximately 5 milliliters of soap, completely covering the hands. Rub your wet, soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds. Rinse thoroughly, from wrist to fingertips. Finally, use a paper towel to turn off the water to avoid picking up microbes from the faucet.
Dry Skin after Hand Washing Increases the Risk of Infection
So, you’ve mastered the perfect hand washing technique? Great! Now there are some post hand washing facts you can learn to perfect your hand hygiene. We all like to have soft skin, but there is another reason why moisturizing is an important component of health. This is because dry skin on the hands can lead to skin damage such as cracks and cuts, and these increase the risk of infection. Artificial nails and chipped nail varnish can also harbor germs. Finally – take note! – the most commonly missed areas when we wash our hands are the thumb, between the fingers, under the nails, and the wrists.
There Is Debate about Whether Hand Dryers or Paper Towels Are Cleaner
Another controversial area in the realm of hand washing facts is drying. For a long time, it was believed that hand dryers were the most hygienic means of drying our hands, since it doesn’t involve touching anything afterwards. However, recent studies suggest that the use of paper towels could actually be more hygienic after all! The University of Westminster conducted a study in 2008 which compared paper towels, warm-air dryers and modern jet-air dryers. They found that warm-air dryers actually increased bacteria on the fingertips by 194%, and jet air dryers by 42%, while paper towels reduced finger pad bacteria by up to 76%. This study concluded that the air produced by the dryers could actually be spreading micro-bacteria. It should be mentioned, however, that the study was sponsored by the paper towel industry!
Hand Washing Can Also Be a Symbolic Act
Throughout human history, as we have recognized hand washing facts relating to improved hygiene, we have also imaginatively combined the practice with ideas of purity, both physical and spiritual. Hand washing, therefore, is not just about medical hygiene. In many religious contexts, hand washing as a ritual can symbolize a cleansing transformation into a state of greater purity. Examples of this include the practices of tevilah and netilat yadayim in Judaism, Lavabo in Christianity and Wudu in Islam.
Don’t Write off the Humble Bar of Soap
The hygiene market is full of products which highlight hand washing facts aiming to show that they are the most effective product of all. With all these new products in the spotlight, it’s unsurprising that many of us might suspect the simple bar of soap is no longer up to the job. Indeed, because it is solid, it might even hold onto bacteria from a previous user. But don’t despair − when you use soap and water, the foam washes off that old bacteria from the last user, and studies have shown traditional solid soap is just as effective as many liquid brands.
Ash and Mud Can Be Used as a Soap Substitute
One of the most extraordinary hand washing facts relates to the alternatives which can be used if soap or detergents are not available. In low income communities, for example in parts of Africa, the use of ash or soil has been shown to be more effective than water alone in hand washing. The World Health Organization has even recommended the use of ash or sand in hand washing if soap is not available. These these substances are alkaline – just like soap – and can therefore help to disinfect the hands. However, there are concerns about this method. If the soil or ash were itself contaminated, for example, it could actually spread disease rather than help prevent it.
Only 5% of Us Wash Our Hands for Long Enough
Recent research from Michigan State University revealed some gruesome hand washing facts − only 5% of people wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds needed to remove germs. After studying 3,749 people using public toilets, researchers concluded that a third of people don’t use soap when they wash their hands, and 10% don’t wash their hands at all!
In the USA, Only 67% Wash Their Hands at all After Using the Restroom!
If that sounds shocking, brace yourself. Another USA study on a wider group of people discovered some even worse hand washing facts! According to a Hardy Diagnostics report, 95% of us say that we wash our hands after using a public toilet. But, after monitoring 8,000 people over five of the biggest US cities, it was found that this figure was actually closer to 67%!
Hand Sanitizer Gels Come in Tons of Cool Scents
Kids often like nothing better than getting a bit dirty. Whether its playing football on a muddy field, getting covered in paint and glue in the craft room or eating juicy spaghetti, they should be free to make a mess sometimes! Here are some hand washing facts for kids to help them learn proper hygiene practices: when standing at the sink, get your child to sing a 20-second song to pass the time and have fun while hand washing! Yankee Doodle is a good one. If you really can’t get them to stay at the sink that long, then alcohol hand sanitizers could be the answer. They come in all kinds of nice-smelling varieties, from apple and strawberry to Halloween-themed pumpkin spice, and they rub in quickly without even needing a paper towel to dry.
Hand Washing Facts – Facts about Hand Washing Summary
Hand washing is the act of cleaning your hands, usually for hygiene purposes. Hand washing has been recognized by science as one of the most important things we can do to reduce the spread of disease. Respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, the common cold or tuberculosis, along with bacterial contamination on food leading to food poisoning, are all examples of instances in which hand washing can significantly reduce the transmission of germs. Our review of hand washing facts has suggested that, overall, there is some confusion about the proper way to wash our hands. It seems that many of us are unfortunately not doing it in the correct manner, i.e., for at least 20 seconds in warm soapy water, followed by drying with a paper towel, or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.