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How Effective is Hand Washing

Nov 23, 2021

How Effective is Hand Washing


I’ll be very honest friends; this article topic is a tough one for me. I tried to give some hint to my ambiguity in the title. Afterall, I come from the side of the tracks that think exposure to many things is good. We don’t need any “helicopter parents” or “snowplow parents”. Right?

I was raised in the era when kids rode bicycles without helmets. We routinely drank out of garden hoses or from irrigation canals. We seldom washed our hands and if we did, it was because we could see dirt or grime on them. We swam in the same irrigation canals we often drank out of. We jumped in the back seat of Mom and Dad’s car and didn’t ever buckle a seat belt. We wrecked our bikes with some degree of regularity and yet never suffered debilitating brain damage.

It might be pure divine intervention, but my siblings and I very seldom missed school due to illness. We grew up not suffering from asthma or allergies. We ate whatever was put in front of us without concern for ingredients or where the food came from.

Now, back to the subject of this article – Is hand washing effective? The answer is unequivocally YES. The reasons to regularly wash our hands with soap and water are never ending. Some reasons to wash our hands thoroughly can include:

  • After using the toilet
  • After changing a baby’s diaper
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Between handling raw and cooked or ready-to-eat food
  • Before and after attending to sick children or family members
  • After handling or petting animals
  • After handling rubbish or taking out the garbage

Effectiveness of washing our hands can be greatly increased by doing it properly. To wash hands most effectively:

  1. Wet hands with clean, running water, preferably warm water.
  2. Apply soap and lather well for 20 – 30 seconds. Rub hands together more aggressively if hands are soiled with ingrained dirt or resistant substances such as oil or grime.
  3. Take care to rub lather of soap on backs of hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.
  4. Rinse well under running water and make sure to remove all traces of soap.
  5. Dry hands thoroughly with clean towels or with hot air.

Answers to a few frequently asked questions – it is better to use liquid soap than bar soap. However, bar soap is better than not using soap. There is no advantage to using antibacterial soap, any soap will wash away germs just as effectively. Soap and water is better than using hand sanitizer. Unfortunately, hand sanitizer tends to move the germ particles around on your hands but not wash them away.

We do not need to fear germs or become obsessed with washing our hands. Simply put, washing our hands will help remove many of the common ways that harmful germs get into our systems.

While our immune systems develop and strengthen based on the number of foreign substances we are exposed to, we do not need to overdo it by avoiding good old soap and water on our hands. Be Blessed.

Category: Dr. Sterling