The 2020 COVID-19 outbreak made people across the globe more aware of the importance of washing hands regularly and correctly. In fact, epidemiologists and other doctors are putting handwashing high up the list of ways to stay safe, right next to wearing protective masks and social distancing.
However, washing your hands has a sanitary effect only if you wash them properly.
How viruses spread
The new coronavirus spreads just like any other virus, by touch. It’s not the only handshaking that can spread a virus, as touching surfaces can also pick up virus particles (virions). The handrails on public transport, doorknobs, and other metal surfaces are places where germs thrive.
In most cases, the infection occurs when we unknowingly touch an infected surface and then use that hand to touch our nose, mouth, or eyes. However, the chain of events can be cut when we wash our hands and get the germs and virions out.
Dishonesty and statistics
If you look up scientific studies about how many people wash their hands after using the bathroom, you will find a discrepancy. Namely, people often hide the truth that they fail to wash their hands after using the bathroom because they are afraid of getting stigmatized by society.
Even if everybody claims they wash their hands, studies have shown that at least 1 in 10 leaves the restroom without washing their hands and an additional 3 (out of 10) use only water without ever reaching for the soap.
The first step to better hand hygiene is to never become part of these bleak numbers and always wash your hands with soap after using the bathroom.
When it comes to washing hands thoroughly, as recommend by hygienists, the matters are even worse. Some statistics show that as little as 5% of people wash their hands thoroughly every day. Opening the tap and grabbing the soap for several seconds and then rinsing is not considered a thorough wash.
Essentially, you should wash your hands in a way to remove all the bacteria and pathogens. This involves washing the hands for at least 15 seconds (20 seconds, ideally) in terms of duration. Also, be careful to scrub all the areas, especially the areas between the fingers, under the nails, and around the thumb. These are the areas people often skip because they are in a hurry.
Drying is an essential part of washing
After you’re done washing the hands, the process isn’t over just yet. Namely, you have to dry the hands. A hand towel seems like the logical choice but towels get dirty quickly, becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. A far better solution are automatic hand dryers but there are rules to using these as well.
You usually find a hand dryer in the bathroom of a restaurant or a medical institution but they are suitable for home use as well. Wall-mounted hand dryers are contactless, i.e. you don’t have to press any buttons to turn them as a motion sensor does all the work for you. This ensures that the sterility of your hands is not compromised after washing them thoroughly.
What to do when running water isn’t nearby?
So far, we have only discussed how to wash hands in a sanitary facility but we are often miles away from water rooms. When camping outdoors, rinsing your hands in a cold mountain stream is better than not washing them at all. Even better, you can bring antibacterial wet wipes that the whole family can use to sanitize their hands.
In extreme cases when you have no wet wipes and there isn’t running water around, you can use ash or sand to wash your hands. Wood ash is also used for making shampoos, so it does have certain antibacterial properties. However, these measures are only provisional, as you should wash your hands using water and a bar of soap as soon as possible.
Apply hand cream after washing the hands
You might be thinking by now that washing will make your skin dry and you would be right. In the age of the coronavirus, we are forced to wash our hands more often than usual, so battling dryness is a real issue.
Luckily, hand creams are affordable and widely available, so apply them after hand washing to counter the negative effects. A good hand cream restores moisture to our skin and improves its elasticity. In addition, a hand cream protects our hands against harmful UV radiation and it exfoliates the skin.
Liquid soap or a bar of soap?
The final dilemma most people have is whether to use a bar of soap or liquid soap to wash their hands. The shortest answer is that both types of soap are equally effective against bacteria and viruses. The only difference is that liquid soap has added moisturizers.
Even when the world isn’t dealing with a pandemic, it’s essential to maintain good hand hygiene. By washing hands often and properly, you are fighting viruses and bacteria that are harmful to your health.