Think everyone generally does an adequate job of washing their hands? Think again.
Just 5 percent of people wash their hands long enough to destroy infectious germs after using the toilet, according to the Journal of Environmental Health. Yuck! Most people spend around 6 seconds washing their hands and 33 percent use no soap. What’s worse is that 10 percent skipped washing completely.
Washing your hands after using the bathroom is a must, but it shouldn’t stop there. Hand washing is essential throughout the day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds; a quick scrub and rinse won’t cut it.
To ensure you wash for the right amount of time, count slowly to 20 or try a strategy used by kids everywhere: sing! Of course you can do this quietly to yourself, but singing “Happy Birthday” twice or “Twinkle Twinkle” once ensure you hit that 20-second mark necessary to eliminate germs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should always wash your hands before:
- Preparing food or eating.
- Treating wounds, giving medicine or caring for a sick or injured person.
- Inserting or removing contact lenses.
Additionally, always wash your hands after:
- Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry.
- Using the toilet or changing a diaper.
- Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes or waste.
- Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands.
- Treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person.
- Handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, or anything that could be contaminated — such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes.
- Shaking hands with others.
Of course, any time your hands look dirty, it’s important to give them a good wash no matter what you’re doing. If you don’t have access to water and soap, liquid hand sanitizer is a good secondary option. Just try to use options with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Remember, hand washing isn’t just proper etiquette, it will help keep you and the community healthy. In fact, researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths a year could be prevented!