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A Quick Primer on How to Properly Wash Your Hands, Because Apparently We All Need One

A quick guide to make sure you're one of the 5% of people who does.


Like many of you, we were shocked, disgusted, and disappointed to learn earlier this week that the percentage of people who properly wash their hands in public restrooms is a dismal 5%. Yes, just 1 in 20 people are doing that right. That disappointing number got us thinking — there are four editors here at Geekosystem, and we all think we wash our hands properly. That means either A) there are 76 other people out there doing it wrong or B) some of us think we’re washing our hands correctly, but really aren’t. We’re surely not the only ones faced with this grim thought, so we’re taking a moment to offer this handy reminder on the right way to wash your hands.

Hot water and soap: I cannot stress this enough — the first key to a good hand wash is the use of hot water and plenty of soap. Just getting your hands wet is not enough time wash away germs like e. coli that can live on your hands. Don’t believe me? Fine. Here’s Samuel L. Jackson making the point. If you won’t listen to him, I don’t know what to tell you.

Your official reminder on using soap and hot water — be like Sam Jackson, not John Travolta. Good advice for pretty much anything, really.

How long should I wash my hands? The length of a good hand wash is about twenty seconds. Looking for an easy timer in your head on that one? It’s about as long as it takes to sing the alphabet song to yourself. Yes, with the “Now I know my ABCs” part and everything. Just, you know, sing it quietly in your head, or you risk looking like an insane person. But at least you’ll look like an insane person with clean hands.

When should I wash my hands? Chances are, you already kind of know this one. A good rule of thumb is if you find yourself wondering “Should I wash my hands?” then the answer to your question is “yes, you should.” Am I leaving the bathroom? Wash your hands. Just handled raw meat? Wash your hands. Just got off the subway or handled a baby? Oh, for the love of God, wash your hands. No one is saying  you have to go all Lady Macbeth here, but if you translate “Should I wash my hands into “I should wash my hands,” you’re going to be sitting pretty.

What if I can’t wash my hands? Look, nobody’s perfect, least of all us. You’re not going to be able to wash your hands every time you should. A little bottle of antibacterial gel can be a convenient workaround for those times, but use it sparingly — antibacterial agents can actually drive up resistance in everyday bugs, and nothing beats a good soap and water wash for efficacy.

So there’s your quick primer to help you make sure you’re in the 5%. Now we know, wise reader, that you are all hygienic and attractive folk to begin with, so please don’t take this wrong. If you’re already there, pass it along to someone else who hasn’t gotten the hint yet. And hey, maybe we can even get that up to number all the way up into double digits. Wouldn’t that be… well, not great, I guess. But it would be something, and we’ll take it.

(Hand washing  tips courtesy of The Mayo Clinic)

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