Wash Your Hands or Pay the Consequences!

October 15 was Global Handwashing Day — seriously. And it is a serious matter — clean hands save lives!

A study published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine indicates that less than one-third of men and two-thirds of women wash their hands with soap after using the restroom! Well that’s fairly disgusting. Researchers studied the behavior of a quarter of a million people using restrooms in Britain, and used sensors to monitor soap use. 

Hand washing is the simplest — and cheapest — way to avoid getting sick, helping to prevent the common cold, diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections, MRSA, food-borne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli, and of course, the swine flu (H1N1), among other things.

In the home, frequent hand washing, especially before and after food preparation, eating, diaper changing, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, and using the bathroom, will prevent germs from spreading among family members.

In hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices, frequent hand washing can prevent deadly infections from spreading between health care workers and patients.

There is a right way and a wrong way to wash your hands. The wrong way would be to give your hands an obligatory rinse with water because no one is looking. The right way, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is:

When washing hands with soap and water:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
  • Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
  • Continue rubbing hands for 15-20 seconds.
  • Rinse hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.
  • Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast-acting. When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

  • Apply product to the palm of one hand.
  • Rub hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry.

We’ve known about the benefits of hand washing for a long time, but people still don’t wash as often as they should. When it comes to health care policy, nothing could be easier.


Related Articles:

The Single Best Way to Prevent Illness

Calling on Hospitals to Prevent Spread of MRSA

The Swine Flu Project

Photo: Centers for Disease Control


Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons8 years ago

I think the doorknobs that we touch are more filthy and dangerous than not washing in the bathrooms.

Christine Mullaney
Christine M8 years ago

I was in a Massachusetts Emergency Room with my husband who had a cut. Having an iced coffee to pass the time (two hours) I needed to use the rest room. After using said restroom (an individual - not a stall) went to use the sink. Not only did it not have soap, but the water was not working. I was horrified and went out with dirty hands and asked a nearby nurse where I could wash. She directed me to a sink and very casually said to someone else we need to get that sink fixed. IN A HOSPITAL! They could have at least had sanitzer in the bathroom. I can't imagine on a busy weekend I was the first person to use that bathroom!

Ian Hadfield
Ian Hadfield8 years ago

When I visit the Gents at a Supermarfket you just would not believe the number of men who do not wash their hands before leaving. Then they go and handle goods from the shelves !
Disgusting, filthy people.

Diane E.
Diane E8 years ago

I HAVE to put this comment in-How many people opwn the tap,wash their hands and then close the tap-the tap was DIRTY before you washed your hands!!Wash the top of the tap at the same time you are washing your hands. Also people wash their hands before preparing food, ie they buy cheese, and then open it, THINK of how many people with dirty hands have picked up that cheese in the supermarket!!! I wash my goods from the supermarket-its actually a filthy place.

Carol H.
Past Member 8 years ago

I remember the days when Mother taught how to was our hands over and over again and that stuck with us it was something you did everytime you went to bathroom or before you ate or anything you just kept your hands clean.
Especially when just came from the street even if you really didn't touch anything but the air is dirty with God knows what you just washed your hands.
What happened to that? Did that become old hat or boring?
I don't get why now with all this happening people are acting as though it is something new.
When all of us in our day and we started school they taught us how to was our hands the older people would put their hands over ours under the water and teach the proper way to was our hands.
Does that happen today?

Danielle K.
Danielle K8 years ago

I wash my hands scrupulously after using the restroom, but I have to say, thsoe hand dryers do squat for drying your hands, and most people end up wiping on their pants. I carry bottled hand sanitizer (NOT antibacterial, but made of essential oils) and esential oil hand wipes with me.

But I have a colleague who doesn't wash her hands after using the restroom, which is just disgusting. Luckily, I don't interact with her much.

Deb R.
Past Member 8 years ago

To add support to the comments...do not use antibacterial soap. Plain soap and water work well. I just saw some stats on areas most frequently missed...back of hands and thumbs. So "milk" each thumb several times and give the backs a good rub, too.
I am not a 'germ phob', but I use my knuckle for elevator buttons and try not to use hand rails. The paper towel dispensers that have a mechanical lever to advance the towels are disgustingly dirty. I don't think the office cleaners ever think about them...so I pull off my towel before washing. (Ok, now I am sounding like a 'germ phob'...but only in public places!)

Pam H.
Pamela H8 years ago

The governments and media are trying to use their fear tactics telling us we 'should' all get the swine flu vaccine. But again that only pads the coffers of government and big pharmaceutic companies. Now they are talking about possible forced vaccinations. I guess there will be a 'World Vaccination Day' where we will all be pressured into receiving this stuff into our systems and told 'everyone else it doing it' - which they are not by the way, only the few with blind faith.

Pam H.
Pamela H8 years ago

Anti-bacterial soap does more harm that good. Do NOT use it. Just use normal soap and wash frequently, especially after being out in the public, like shopping, school etc. It is the best way to prevent getting the flu or any other illnesses. Far better than succumbing to vaccinations and their dangerous side effects. Shopping is one of the dirtiest things we can do. Tests have shown that many pathogens including ecoli have been discovered on they keys of ATM's, on shopping trolley handles, escalator and stair handrails, door handles, shop and bank benches etc. Anything that is touched by the public is sus including library books, videos & DVD's and cash. I wash my hands with soap as soon as I come home and always before handling food.

Susan Marie
Sussan Willems8 years ago

Well washing ones hands when leaving the bathroom to me just is the right thing to do. No one has to tell me how gross it is to touch the areas that drop off put waste products!
Many times I have been in bathrooms where their is NO soap, so JUST water has to work for me. I have Multiple Sclorosis, and my immune system stinks as is, i dont need to push my luck!
Also when washing your hands 30 seconds isnt to much to ask for, is it? Say the A B C's, or count to 30, thats soaping, wash & rines, doesnt take much at all! I worked food service much my life & i cant imagine eating out any more due to people NOT washings hands!!!