Healthy Handwashing Tips
Last updated on October 29th, 2019 at 12:08 pm
You can do some basic things that can go a long way toward keeping yourself and others healthy. If your doctor says it’s okay, you can get a flu shot every year before flu “season” arrives, for example. You can also keep your kids home from school if they’re sniffling, coughing or showing other symptoms of being sick that aren’t attributable to allergies.
While those things may seem like no-brainers, there’s something even simpler you can do to stay healthy and prevent the spread and transfer of germs. What is it? Wash your hands!
Unfortunately, washing your hands the way you’re used to doing might not be enough. You need to wash your hands frequently — using the right technique — for the habit to be effective.
The Best Way to Wash Your Hands
Whether they’re adults or kids, many people wash their hands as if they’re on autopilot. That’s understandable because it’s likely that a given person is already a veteran at handwashing at a young age. The thing is, handwashing is really only worthwhile if you do it properly. While you may not realize it, there are some best practices for washing your hands — and you should follow these handwashing tips every single time you wash your hands at home, at a friend’s house or in a public restroom.
Here are the sequential steps to washing your hands properly:
- Turn on the water and wet your hands.
- Shut the water off.
- Use soap to create a cleansing lather on your hands.
- Scrub your hands with the lather for at least 20 seconds, being sure you don’t neglect the backs of your hands or the spaces between your fingers and under the fingernails.
- Turn the water on and rinse all the lather off your hands.
- Turn the water off while covering your hand with a paper towel or using your elbow.
- Use a paper towel or a hand dryer to dry your hands in their entirety.
While you might think it’s great news that nearly two-thirds of adults tend to wash their hands with some soap and water when they use a public restroom, knowing that too few of them scrub for the “mandatory” 20 seconds ruins the illusion. If you want to ensure you scrub your hands for the strongly recommended 20 seconds but don’t want to count down 20 seconds or time yourself using your watch, sing “Happy Birthday” twice or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” three times in your head.
Just like you shouldn’t skimp on the time you spend scrubbing your hands, you shouldn’t skip drying them entirely. Wet hands transfer more potentially harmful microbes than dry ones, so drying your hands is a key step in the handwashing process that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you can’t find a paper or dry towel and a hand dryer isn’t available, dry your hands using your clothes if necessary to avoid touching a potentially germ-covered doorknob or anything else with wet hands.
When Should You Wash Your Hands?
If you’re not quite sure when you should wash your hands, follow these rules of thumb: Wash whenever you suspect — or know — they’re unclean, and wash them whenever you’re near a sink that has soap and a dry towel or hand dryer to dry off. However, although those guidelines are helpful, they don’t identify specific instances where you should actively seek out a place to wash your hands.
Here are some of the times when you should make it a point to wash your hands using the best practices provided earlier:
- Your hands are visibly dirty.
- You took public transportation to reach your destination.
- You engaged in outdoor activities like playing with your kids or gardening.
- You’re going to enter or leave someone’s hospital room or a space in your home where someone is recovering from an illness or a medical procedure like knee replacement surgery.
- You shook someone’s hand.
- You just finished or are about to start preparing food.
- You’re getting ready to eat.
- You’re going to treat a wound or just did.
- You changed a child’s diaper or assisted an older person with their bathroom “duties.”
- You handled an animal or the critter’s food or waste.
- You took the trash out.
- You blew your nose or used your hand to cover your mouth or nose when you coughed or sneezed.
- You used the restroom.
- You used your own or someone else’s cell phone.
- You put dirty laundry in the washer.
- You handled a menu or condiments left on the table between parties at a restaurant.
Even if you question whether it’s really necessary to wash your hands after you prep food like vegetables or shake a person’s hand, you should still do it. Even raw vegetables can be contaminated with any one of the 31 known pathogens responsible for foodborne illnesses. And just because you washed your hands, it doesn’t mean the individual whose hand you shook did.
What If the Water Isn’t Hot?
It’s common knowledge that hot water kills microbes, right? It sure is! The problem is that particular piece of knowledge doesn’t tell the whole story. Water needs to be more than “just” hot to kill bacteria. It needs to be biting hot to do the job. More specifically, water needs to be at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the germs on your hands. Unfortunately, water at that temperature is simply too hot for most people to clean their hands without irritating or burning their skin.
In general, the hot water many people use to wash their hands is only around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, hot water does nothing to rid your hands of bacteria.
The takeaway here is this: It doesn’t matter if there’s no hot or even warm water to clean your hands. The friction caused by you lathering and rubbing your hands against each other as you wash them is what will get germs off your hands — regardless of how hot or cold the water you use might be.
What If There’s No Antibacterial Soap or No Soap at All?
When handwashing in public restrooms or even at home, many people search for antibacterial soap to wash their hands after they conduct their business. While using antibacterial soap is better than not using soap at all, it’s not as advisable as using regular soap to clean your hands. According to the Centers for Disease Control, antibacterial soap isn’t more effective than regular soap when it comes to preventing the spread of illness. More alarmingly, the triclosan in a lot of antibacterial soaps may facilitate the growth of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
If you can’t find soap by the sink, you should still rinse your hands and scrub them as you do. While washing your hands without soap isn’t as effective at removing germs, it’s better than doing nothing.
What If There’s No Way for Me to Dry My Hands?
One of the best handwashing tips for public bathrooms we’re going to share now may shock you to your very core. If there is no way for you to dry your hands — and using your clothes isn’t even an option — don’t wash them. While it may seem counterintuitive, not washing your hands at all is generally safer than washing them, leaving them wet and touching other surfaces.
What If I Use Hand Sanitizer Instead of Washing My Hands?
When you can’t wash your hands at times when it’s wise to do so, you can use hand sanitizer. For this to be effective, though, you need to use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60 percent alcohol.
Although using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a wise alternative when washing your hands isn’t an option, you should know that sanitizers will do nothing to protect you from infections like C. diff. For this reason, it’s advisable to wash with soap and water rather than use sanitizer to clean your hands whenever possible.
Contact One Point Partitions
Although we can’t help you wash your hands effectively by doing anything other than providing advice, we can help business owners and property managers create bathroom environments that are easy to clean and that foster good hygiene. How can we do that? By providing great-looking bathroom partitions that have a space at the bottom, which allows the water used to clean them to run between the stalls and into the nearest drain.
Our stall and urinal dividers are available in five material types and an array of colors and visual textures. Every washroom partition we sell is American made, ADA compliant and covered by a factory-backed warranty.
Contact One Point Partitions to learn more about the stall and urinal dividers we sell. When you do, you’ll work one-on-one with an expert designer who’ll help you create a floor plan that promotes hygienic bathroom practices. Get in touch with us now!