Here’s How To Actually Wash Your Hands Properly, According To Science
Let's keep those meathooks clean from now on, mmkay?
I'm not looking at anyone in particular, but *pivots on heels to glare at you directly in the eye* you're probably washing your hands all wrong.
Yes, you! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: When it comes to washing your hands, it is not the thought that counts. Mere running water and a dollop of soap isn't enough to keep your hands clean and free of being germ dispatchers; you have to actually do some (pretty easy) steps to make your hand-washing count.
In this witching season for cold, flu, and all other kinds of lovely communicable illnesses, it's REALLY IMPORTANT to have nice, sanitary hands, so for once and for all, here's how to do the damn thing the right way:
1. You don't need to make the water so hot it'll boil your hands.
Daniel Eiras, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases at NYU Langone Health suggests using warm or hot water if you have a choice, but tbh any clean water will do.
2. It should take a lot longer than you're used to.
Eiras says that, in total, you should be washing your hands for 15-20 seconds — and that doesn't include the time it takes to completely dry your hands (more on that later). The WHO states that the entire process, from getting your hands wet to turning off the faucet, should take 40-60 seconds. A whole minute! That's a long ass time to rub your paws against each other, but you can make it go a liiiiittle faster by singing the ABC's or "Happy Birthday" to yourself as you go. Or to everyone else, if you want to help them out and/or give them a hint.
If you're thinking 60 seconds to wash my hands? Ain't nobody got time for that, I hear you. I get it. But I'm guessing you probably also don't have time to get sick or deal with everyone that you get sick. So idk, something to think about the next time you wash your hands. See what I did there?
3. Which means you have plenty of time to show some love to all parts of your hands.
Hands! They've got a lot of surface area! Making sure your palms and fingertips are clean is always a good idea, but so is getting "areas that play hard-to-get, like the spaces in between your fingers and the backs of your hands," Eiras says. Start by rubbing your hands palm to palm, and then interlace fingers and rub to access those little nooks and crannies you usually neglect. Don't forget to clean the underside of your nails, your wrists, and the backs of your fingers too, and when in doubt, do a lot of the "rotational rubbing" this WHO poster suggests.
4. Try to create some ~friction~ when washing.
"You need friction and a lot of rubbing to get any unwanted material and germs off," Eiras says. Water alone can only do so much, and basically making one hand grind up on the other will really make the magic happen.
5. Use a towel to turn off the sink when you're done.
Germs, microbes, bacteria, and all of that good stuff thrive on wet surfaces like sinks. They love them and want to set up a vacation home and retire early to them. So if you're washing up at a non-automatic sink, grab a paper towel or whatever's handy to turn off the water so that you don't undo all the good work you just did.
6. Finally, none of this matters if you don't fully dry your hands when you're done.
Repeat after me: Pants are not a suitable substitute for a paper towel or hand dryer. Just like touching a wet faucet handle after washing your hands negates the whole process, leaving the bathroom with wet hands OR rubbing them on your not-so-clean pants re-grimes your hands reeeeeal quick. And after spending 60 whole seconds sanitizing, why would you want to do that?
7. And yes, you should wash your hands after you go to the bathroom, but you should also do it a lot of other times, too.
A big part of proper hand-washing etiquette is knowing when to do it. If you don't wash your hands after being on the toilet, first of all, how dare you? Anyway, I'm guessing most of you at least *try* to fully wash your hands after going to the bathroom, which is great! But there are also many other times you should trot off to the bathroom to wash up, including, but not limited to:
• After you sneeze
• After you blow your nose
• After you cough
• After touching garbage
• After preparing food
• After being in contact with an animal
• After touching any "high touch" surface in a public area, aka a doorknob, light switch, railing, or subway pole
Basically, if you feel like you've come in contact with anything gross, just give 'em a wash. If you can't summon a bathroom or running water yourself, store-bought hand sanitizer is fine.