Are you washing your hands properly? It might sound like a trivial question, but it's not. In fact, many people either don't know, or can't be bothered to follow, the proper process. But
simple hygiene practices like washing your hands properly and often are key to preventing contagious diseases like the common cold, food poisoning or diarrhoea.
So, what is the proper hand washing process?
Well, one easy way to ensure you’re washing your hands properly is by scrubbing them clean while singing “Happy Birthday” twice. That’s how long (at least 20 seconds) your hands should be under running water for them to be considered clean.
Of course, to some, singing while you scrub may sound a bit odd. But, if you’re one of these people, it’s worth finding another way to time yourself . The NHS describes the proper handwashing technique as follows:
- Wet your hands
- Lather soap all over the hands, the back of the hand and in between the fingers and thumbs
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse thoroughly with running water
- Dry your hands with paper towels or pressurised air
- You can watch a video of the technique here
Now, it’s true that there has been some scientific debate on whether or not hot water enhances the sanitising process, but there’s a consensus that the use of soap and water (as opposed to hand sanitisers) is the preferred way to disinfect your hands. And the reason is simple - soaps remove microbes and soil from skin. While scrubbing creates friction that helps lift grease, soil and bacteria from the skin surface. Rinsing your hands under running water ensures you’re not dipping them into a basin full of old microbes. Lastly, drying your hands using disposable paper towels or pressurised air, is a good way of ensuring you don’t pick up somebody else’s germs (as you would from a cloth towel at a friend’s house).
Hand washing etiquette
Most people know when they should wash their hands. But, even though it’s stating the obvious, we’ll repeat the key occasions here. You should always wash your hands before and after the following:
- Preparing or eating a meal
- Visiting the toilet
- Cleaning a wound
- Changing a nappy
- Tending to someone who’s had diarrhoea or has been vomiting
- After coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, touching rubbish or touching/feeding an animal (including pets)
Is this much sanitation really necessary?
In short: yes. Many germs are contagious (spread through touch), such as the bacteria that cause the flu or acute gastroenteritis. In fact, direct contact is responsible for the spread of so many diseases that handwashing in some communities can reduce the risk of children getting sick by 23-40%. It can also reduce diarrhoea-related diseases in people with weak immune systems by about 58% and diminish respiratory illnesses (like ‘flu) in the general population by 16-21%. Clearly, it’s important to wash – or sanitise - your hands often throughout the day.
But what if soap and running water aren't available?
Sanitising gels are a great way to disinfect your hands. A sanitising alcohol rub with at least 60% alcohol content can also kill germs effectively. The Stero-san sanitising rub fits perfectly into any sports bag, pocket or purse - and it contains 70% alcohol!
Help to keep germs at bay by ensuring surfaces at kept clean. Disinfectant wipes are extremely useful when cleaning up surfaces, especially surfaces used for medical purposes, like an examination table, or a sink. You can also use them for cleaning up the children’s toys or a baby’s high chair after a meal. Steroplast’s SaniCloth universal wipes are the ideal choice, they’re also highly effective against the Norovirus – with a 30 second kill rate.
Most of all, remember, wash your hands frequently and help to prevent the spread of infection!