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FAQ about Handwashing

Top FAQs about washing hands


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Sophie Zoria

3 years ago | 5 min read

Handwashing is one of the fundamental elements of personal hygiene. This year it has also become the top preventative measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. Such healthcare regulation caused a peak in handwashing and the use of disinfection solutions outside of healthcare institutions.

Even skeptics of the pandemic started following their hygiene routine more closely. In this article, we collected answers to the top questions about handwashing: from the description of the process to the explanation of how to deal with the consequences of frequent use of soap and disinfectors.

Top FAQs about washing hands

What is the correct way to wash hands?

It is simple: water and soap are the two main components for handwashing. Here is how to wash hands properly:

● Wet the hands with water

● Cover them with soap lather

● Scrub hands in all places (between the fingers, on palms, back of the hands, and under the fingernails) for at least 20 seconds

● Rinse well

● Dry (with a towel or air)

Why do I need to wash hands for 20 seconds?

Scientific studies show that 20 seconds is the time required to kill the harmful germs and chemicals on your hands. Shorter scrubbing time will clean the hands but cannot guarantee the complete removal of harmful microorganisms.

Note: Even if you use a disinfectant instead of handwashing, remember to leave the product for at least 20 seconds on your hands according to the recommendations on the bottle from any disinfection solution company.

How to calculate 20 seconds for handwashing?

You are not likely to stand with a timer while washing your hands, so the easiest way is to sing a familiar song. For instance, ‘Happy Birthday’ or the chorus of ‘Jingle Bells’ takes about 15 seconds; the famous ‘Wash Your Hands with Baby Shark’ song fond kids takes 36 seconds without drying, so you can use it as well.

While CDC and UNICEF advise the 20-second timing for handwashing, the total experience with drying and wetting the hands should take about 40-60 seconds, according to WHO.

Note: Should you not have 20 seconds, you can use a disinfection solution for body and hands as a replacement.

Does soap remove all germs?

Yes and no. Soap does not guarantee a 100% rate of germs removal. When worked into lather, soap traps and removes germs and chemicals from hands; these harmful elements get rinsed with the clean water from your skin. But if you wash hands for less than 20 seconds, the lather might not form and will not be able to do the job.

Is antibacterial soap better than regular soap?

No, this is not true. The is no direct evidence that antibacterial soap removes more significant numbers of germs than regular soap. There is, however, evidence that antibacterial soaps contain triclosan that may be contributing to bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics. Basically, by using antibacterial soap, you might be only developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria that eventually might become untreatable.

The conclusion is simple – use regular soap. If you have none, search for touchless disinfection equipment around to clean your hands.

Is bar soap better than liquid soap?

There is no difference in which soap you use. Both options work equally effective against germs.

Can I wash hands without soap?

You can, but it will not be effective against harmful microorganisms. If you do not have soap and water, it is better to use touchless disinfection equipment or a hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol.

If there is no soap or alternative disinfection solutions in your area, you might consider using other cleansing agents like ash to remove bacteria from your hands.

Does water temperature impact the effectiveness of handwashing?

Several research pieces show that water temperature does not change the effectiveness of handwashing with soap and water. The warm and cold water removes an equal number of germs, so set the temperature that suits you better.

How to dry hands after washing?

There is no sufficient research in this area. At this point, hand dryers and towels are considered equally effective to dry one’s hands after washing. However, if you are using a towel at home, make sure that you dry it completely and that it does not remain dump. Excessive moisture in towels only creates a favorable environment for germs development. Change the home towels frequently to avoid excessive moisture.

Should there be no towel or hand dryer around, you can always dry your hands by waving them in the air or use some disinfection solution for human to minimize the drying time.

Can I touch the tap or public bathroom after washing hands?

It is not recommended, yet there is not enough evidence to confirm or state that you will get the same number of germs back if you touch a tap or door handle after handwashing. So generally, it is better to avoid touching anything in a public bathroom after washing your hands. If you need to open the door or close the tap, you can always use a paper towel or your elbows to do so. Alternatively, after washing hands and leaving the bathroom, you can also use some disinfection solution for body parts that touched other surfaces for a peace of mind.

When exactly should I wash my hands?

● At all times before, during, and after food preparation or any other contact with food

● Before eating

● Before, during, and after caring for a sick person

● Before and after wound treatment

● After using the toilet or public bathroom

● After changing a child or helping one with the toilet

● After touching animals, their food (including treats) or waste

● After touching garbage

● Whenever you feel your hands are dirty

● After touching your nose, mouth, and eyes (especially after coughing or sneezing)

If washing hands is impossible in any of these circumstances, use disinfection solutions as an alternative.

Is sanitizer the same as handwashing?

Hand sanitizers and other disinfection solutions aim at killing all possible germs from a surface, including human skin. Washing hands means getting rid of the germs by rinsing them away with soap lather. So the underlying technology is different for each process; however, the goal of both would be the same – to keep your hands clean and germs-free. CDC advises washing your hands rather than using a sanitizer whenever possible. Yet, if there are no conditions or means to do so, use a safe disinfection solution for human bodies with at least 70% alcohol.

Do wipes remove germs?

Only hand sanitizing and disinfecting wipes with 70%+ alcohol are effective. But please note that most disinfecting wipes are designed for surface disinfection rather than human skin disinfection. This means that they will work but may cause irritation and even minor chemical burns. Every disinfection solution company advises to carefully read instructions on the labels and to use only products for humans.

Note: Baby wipes do not remove all germs; they are a cleaning rather than a disinfecting solution.

How to deal with the consequences of frequent handwashing?

Frequent handwashing and application of disinfection solutions wash out natural oils and wax from the skin surface. These components protect your hands from over-drying. As a result, frequently-washed skin requires additional moisturization. If you see dry or even ripped skin on your hands, consider applying hand cream or ointment after every handwashing to restore the natural balance and avoid discomfort. Dermatologists advise using creams with mineral oil or petrolatum without fragrance and dye.

Note: Extra dry skin eventually cracks, creating even easier access to your body for viruses and bacteria. Make sure to keep your hands moisturized at all times.

Final thoughts

Handwashing is an essential element of daily personal hygiene, especially in times of pandemic. The rule of thumb is to wash your hands with clean water and soap whenever you have contact with food, sick people, and public places. Should handwashing be unavailable, you can always replace it with disinfection solutions like hand sanitizer.

And also remember to keep your hands moisturized with hand cream or special ointment to prevent dry skin and discomfort.

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Sophie Zoria

Sophie Zoria is a passioned journalist writing about tech and marketing trends, mobile apps, and design. Check out her Medium page: https://medium.com/@sophie_65309


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