These days, the most trending topics seem to be those that revolve around keeping yourself safe, healthy and protected. While this isn’t a bad thing, it is important to know why certain methods of achieving good health, though mundane, are recommended, as well as the most effective ways by which you should go about it. 

Believe it or not, hand washing is one of the most effective measures you can take to protect yourself against viruses, including COVID-19. Studies show that on average, human beings unawaringly touch their eyes, nose and mouth over 25 times within 60 minutes. For this reason among others, hand washing is vital to keeping yourself and others safe throughout the year.

Why Washing Your Hands Is Crucial

In today’s contemporary world, there are many options available for getting your hands clean. From fun and fruity sanitizing gels to deep cleansing antibacterial soaps, it can be easy to get caught up in which might be the best germ-defeating tactic for you.

Though there is nothing inherently wrong with the aforementioned approaches to ridding your hands of bacteria, the truth is that washing your hands in plain soap and hot water is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs and viruses. In fact, studies show that any soap, whether antibacterial or not, can utterly obliterate germs, as long as proper hand washing protocols are observed.

How Soap Works to Destroy Viruses

In order to understand why washing your hands with soap and water is so effective, you must first understand germs and their makeup.

When analyzing the characteristics of viruses and germs, it is important to note that many of these problematic molecules are surrounded by a layer of fat and protein. Because of this, viruses can easily cling to hands and surfaces, and thus, cannot be washed away with plain water. 

When soap is involved in the hand cleaning process, however, the fatty layers that encase bacteria and viruses are torn apart. They are then lifted from the surface of your hands and into the sudsy water. Eventually, those germs and viruses that were on your hands, including those containing COVID-19, are now floating down the sink. 

How To Properly Wash Your Hands for Maximum Effectiveness

In order for hand washing to be truly effective, however, you must ensure that you are washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. This is roughly the amount of time it would take to sing “Happy Birthday”, from start to finish, twice.

Additionally, the Center For Disease Control, or CDC, recommends adhering to the following guidelines for hand washing, to ensure that your hands are entirely clean before you leave the sink:

1. Wet– Wet your hands before applying soap. This can be done with warm or cold water. Just be sure that the water you are utilizing is clean.

2. Lather– Apply soap and work into a rich lather. Be sure to scour between your fingers, under your nails and on the backs of your hands.

3. Scrub– Continue the scrubbing process for no less than 20 seconds. 

4. Rinse– Thoroughly rinse your hands clean of any remaining soap with clean water.

5. Dry– Air dry your hands or dry them with a clean cloth or towel.

What About Hand Sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer, though good for certain situations, is not always as effective as using plain soap and water. Due to the nature of the application of hand sanitizer, this method of cleaning your hands provides you with no way to rinse away any dirt or debris that may be sticking to your hands. 

Bear in mind, also, that a “sanitizer”, in any situation, never works to kill all germs and should not claim to. As such, hand sanitizer should only be utilized when the option for soap and hot water is not present.

How To Properly Use Hand Sanitizer

Nevertheless, there are ways that you can utilize hand sanitizer in a way that is most effective for killing most of the germs on your hands. Before embarking upon the following techniques, always be sure to use a sanitizer marked as having 60% or more alcohol in it, as anything less won’t be nearly as effective.

First, you’ll want to ensure that you pump enough sanitizer to cover the surface on both of your hands. 

Second, rub the product into your hands, thoroughly. 

Third, continue to rub until all of the product has dried, usually about 10-15 seconds after application. 

When To Consider the Use of Hand Washing or Hand Sanitizer

The following are a few scenarios in which it might be wise to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, depending on the situation. Remember that your best bet is always to use hot water and soap, since hand sanitizer may not eliminate all germs present. Keep in mind, also, that this list is not exhaustive, so you should always use common sense when determining when you should wash your hands.

Always seek to wash your hands when:

  • When preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before administering first aid
  • After administering first aid
  • After changing a diaper
  • After sneezing or blowing your nose
  • After using the restroom
  • After coughing
  • After handling animals
  • After handling garbage

Clean Hands Are Essential To Good Health

To conclude, making sure that your hands are clean throughout the day can save you, and others, from contracting potentially serious diseases, such as COVID-19. While soap and water is always your best bet, hand sanitizers can be utilized when there is no soap and water available. 

In either event, be sure to use proper hand washing and sanitizing protocol to ensure that your chosen method of killing the germs on your hands is effective. By making a conscious effort to keep your hands clean, you can help slow the spread of harmful, and potentially fatal, diseases.