The scoop on soap: You’re probably washing your hands wrong

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Think you’re a stickler about proper hand washing? Chances are, you’re not as clean as you think.

In a recent U.S. study, researchers found 95 percent of us were failing to do it right. That’s important, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports correct hand washing literally saves lives by lowering the risk of colds, flu, foodborne illnesses and other infections. Though keeping your hands germ-free throughout the day is impossible, frequent washing can go a long way toward protection against illness.

So what’s the correct hand washing technique? Basically, you should wet your hands with running water first, apply and lather soap, and rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds (the approximate amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). Cover all surfaces, including the back of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers and beneath your fingernails. Rinse and dry, using a towel, your sleeve or your elbow to turn off the faucet to avoid re-infecting your hands.

A few other tips:

  • Automatic soap dispensers are ideal given they require minimal hand contact.
  • Hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent alcohol are an effective alternative as long as you wet your hands thoroughly and rub the product into every part of your hand. Let the alcohol dry before touching anything.
    Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes with a high alcohol content are fine unless your hands are visibly dirty.
  • Washing your hands is especially important before preparing or eating food, treating wounds, giving medicine, caring for a sick or injured person or inserting or removing contact lenses. You should also wash after preparing food (especially raw meat); shaking hands; caring for the sick; changing a diaper; using the toilet; touching animals; coughing or sneezing into your hand; blowing your nose or handling garbage, chemicals or dirty objects.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports there are some 1,500 bacteria on your hands at any given time. Minimize their harmful effects by washing them away several times per day.

Check out Better Living Products’ full line of tools for helping you live a cleaner life.

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