Getting rid of germs on hands
Pop quiz: When was the last time you touched your face with your hands? Research shows that people touch their eyes, nose or mouth about 25 times per hour without even realizing it—that’s about once every 2-3 minutes.
That may not seem like a big deal unless you consider all the germ-laden surfaces you touch each day and remember that your eyes, nose and mouth are all gateways for germs to enter your body. Was there a flu virus on that handrail? A stomach bug on the ATM keypad? Or maybe the ubiquitous cold germ on the pen you picked up in the conference room.
And we haven’t even brought up the fact that some bacteria or viruses can live on a surface from a few hours to a few weeks. Fortunately, one of the most effective ways to avoid those germs is also one of the easiest: Washing your hands.
Why is hand washing so important?
There’s a reason the health experts refer to handwashing as a do-it-yourself vaccine: It’s one of the biggest and easiest things you can do to reduce your chances of getting sick or passing your germs onto someone else.
Some researchers estimate that if everyone washed their hands regularly, a million deaths a year could be prevented. At the very least it would reduce the prevalence of respiratory illnesses (like colds) and gastrointestinal illnesses (like tummy bugs).
And we’re talking about thoroughly washing your hands, not quickly running them under water, drying them on your pants and calling it good. The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety recommends some simple steps for the most effective handwashing.
Hand washing steps
1. Wet your hands
Run your hands under clean water, turn off the tap and apply soap. (The temperature doesn’t matter as both hot and cold water remove germs at the same rate.)
2. Use hand soap
Rub your hands together with soap to form a lather, making sure to scrub all areas including the backs of your hands, under your nails and between your fingers. According to the CDC, using soap is more effective than water alone because the surfactants in soap lift soil and microbes from skin.
3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
How long should you wash your hands? Scrub all areas of your hands and fingers for at least 20 seconds. (TIP: Hum the “Happy Birthday” in your head twice to ensure you’re hitting the 20 second mark or channel the doctors scrubbing in for surgery on your favorite medical drama.)
4. Rinse hands with clean water
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. Running water ensures you remove all the microbes as well as any dirt or residue you scrubbed away from your skin.
5. Dry hands with a clean towel
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
How often should you wash your hands?
Washing your hands regularly will prevent you from spreading all those germs you come in contact with directly to your eyes, nose, mouth or another person, but there are also occasions when experts deem handwashing essential.
They include food preparation, eating, caring for someone who is sick or when you are sick, changing diapers, using the bathroom, handling garbage, dealing with open wounds, or interacting with animals, animal food or animal waste. Those are all prime conditions for coming into contact with germs or easily spreading them.
Bar soap vs. liquid soap: Is there a difference?
Bar soap, liquid soap, foam soap – is one better than the others? No. Experts say as long as you’re using soap, you’re all good. Some people fear a communal bar soap may be a source of transferring germs, but studies do not support that. Even if germs are present on a bar of soap, they are likely to get rinsed away during the washing process along with any that were on your hands to begin with.
Does hand sanitizer work for removing germs on hands?
If you need to wash your hands and can’t find any soap, experts say a good back up is a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. They can quickly tackle many germs, but not all of them. You can find the alcohol content on the label. g&h Protect+™ Advanced Hand Sanitizer with Pro-Vitamin B5, for example, is 74% ethyl alcohol.
Hand sanitizer vs. soap
Hand sanitizers are not a direct substitute for a thorough hand washing, though. For starters, they are less effective at removing germs if your hands are covered in dirt, grease or grime. And they may not work at all if too little is used or it’s wiped off before it dries.
Even in the best conditions, experts say soap and water are far more effective at removing common germs, bacteria and viruses.
Protect your hands
All that handwashing can take a toll on your skin, so make sure you choose your soap wisely. g&h Protect+™ Hand Soap by Amway is designed to provide a deep clean without drying out skin. It washes away bacteria while leaving hands feeling clean, refreshed and moisturized. Prefer bar soap? Try g&h Protect+ Bar Soap with a blend of plant-based ingredients. It handles dirt and impurities with a rich lather that is gentle on your skin.
If other soaps you use are drying out your hands, consider keeping lotion or cream in your purse, desk or gym bag. g&h Nourish+™ Hand Cream helps rebuild skin’s moisture barrier, relieving and soothing it while leaving it feeling moisturized and looking healthy. Plus, it absorbs quickly, so hands don’t feel greasy.