We are knee-deep in cold and flu season, and COVID-19 has created even more worry among the public about keeping our hands clean throughout the day. It is a fact that our hands are covered in germs. We pick up these germs by touching things like door handles, phones, computers, and more, including our own bodies.
While we have known that we need to include frequent handwashing as part of our basic hygiene for over a century, scientists say that the range of organisms crawling around on our hands continues to grow. How do we combat the vast array of bacteria and viruses we encounter every day?
What’s the Best Way to Clean Hands?
Stores are full of products claiming that they kill 99.9 percent of germs. It can be easy to plop one of these products in your shopping cart and go about your day thinking nothing more of how you are preventing the spread of viruses and bacteria. But what if we told you that not all of these products are created equally?
Fun fact: soap and water are still the best way to clean your hands. You don’t even need antibacterial soap to get a good clean. In fact, washing your hands with soap and water for 15 seconds removes 90 percent of bacteria from your hands. Washing for 30 seconds increases bacterial counts by nearly 99.9 percent. Using cool or lukewarm water is just fine, especially if it means you are washing your hands longer.
How Often Should We Wash Our Hands?
It is hard to say just how often we should wash our hands. There are many different factors to consider. Additionally, both under-washing and over-washing can be problematic. For example, not washing your hands frequently enough will spread illnesses. You can transmit bacteria and viruses as you touch objects or your face and shake hands with others.
However, washing your hands too frequently isn’t recommended. First, it is natural—and often beneficial—to have “resident flora,” meaning some bacteria, on your hands. Our hands aren’t meant to be sterile in everyday situations. In fact, the only time that hands need to be sterile is when a surgeon is about to perform surgery. We just want to clean our hands to remove harmful germs most of the time.
Over-washing your hands leads to dry, damaged skin. Dry skin is more likely to crack, and cuts are often worsened by dry skin. These cuts and cracks are the perfect places for germs to live. Dry skin is also more likely to flake off, taking germs with it and spreading them around.
So how often should you wash your hands? We didn’t really answer the initial question because there is no correct answer. But there are a few circumstances in which you should always wash your hands, including:
- After using the bathroom
- Before eating
- Before preparing food
- After interacting with someone who is ill
- After blowing your nose or coughing into your hand
How Does Soap Work?
While we consider soap to be a gentler option compared to hand sanitizer and other similar products, microorganisms would disagree. A single drop of soap diluted in water is enough to rupture and destroy many kinds of viruses and bacteria. Soap dissolves the fat membrane around the virus, which makes it fall apart and become inactive. Learn more about how soap works here.
Products containing alcohol meant to clean hands and surfaces don’t work as well as soap because they don’t affect the viruses’ structures as much as soap does. Additionally, visibly dirty or greasy hands may decrease the effectiveness of hand sanitizers.
One thing that soap and water does that hand sanitizer can’t do is physically knock germs off your hands. According to an article on the UCHealth website, Dr. Daniel Pastula, a UCHealth neuro-infectious disease expert, said, “Soap disrupts the sticky bond between pathogens and your skin, allowing the pathogens to slide right off. Not only are you neutralizing the virus with the soap, but you’re also physically knocking it off your hands. Hand sanitizer doesn’t do all of that.”
Hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, and other similar products are a good alternative for soap and water when access is limited, but they don’t replace the need for washing hands. The CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if you don’t have access to soap and water.
A New Way to Wash Hands
We mentioned before that soap and water aren’t always available when you want to clean your hands… until now! You can have access to soap and water no matter where you are, allowing you to skip the hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes altogether, with Soap in Seconds!
Bring soap and water with you anywhere with Soap in Seconds, a revolutionary foaming soap and water formula in a can for convenient on-the-go use. Each can of Soap in Seconds contains up to 250 hand washes. Toss a can in your car or purse to always have instant access to soap and water. Whether you are camping, tailgating, pumping gas, hiking, watching soccer practice, or at the office, you can keep your hands clean with ease.