Handwashing is the single best way to prevent cold and many other diseases-as long as you do it right. Water and soap, along with the rubbing your hands together, loosen dirt and creates a slippery surface so germs slide off.
You must wash your hands frequently, before and after eating, while preparing food particularly raw meat, fish, and eggs, after using the toilet, after blowing your nose, after changing a diaper, after playing with pets or cleaning up their waste, before and after touching someone who is sick or treating a wound, before putting in contact lenses and after gardening.
1. How long should it take you to wash your hands?
You're supposed to lather up and rub all surfaces of your hands together for 20 seconds-the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. The whole process, from washing to drying your hands, should take 40 to 60 seconds.
2. Does the water temperature matter?
The water temperature has no significant effect on reducing bacteria under normal hand washing conditions. A downside to hot water is that it can irritate skin. Hotter water does cut through oil on your hands faster, but cooler water will also do the job.
3. How should you dry your hands?
Drying your hands reduces bacteria level further, but it's unclear whether using paper or cloth towels or a warm-air dryer is best. There is no difference between these methods in terms of removing bacteria from hands, although paper towels are more effective. If you use a dryer, keeping your hands still, removes more bacteria than rubbing them together.
4. Is hand sanitizer a good substitute?
Hand washing is generally preferable, but alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a suitable option when soap and water are not available. They kill most of the bacteria and viruses on contact, but not bacterial spores. Products with at least 60 percent alcohol are recommended to look out for.
Grime on your hands make the alcohol in hand sanitizers less effective, so if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, you're better off washing them. Handwashing is also recommended instead of sanitizers after going to the bathroom and before and after handling food. If you use hand sanitizer gel, rub about a dime-sized amount over all the surfaces of your fingers and hands until they are dry.
5. What about antibacterial soaps?
Soaps that contain antibacterial agents most commonly, triclosan kill or slow bacteria, as well as help physically remove them. But there's concern that such soaps contribute to the growing problem of bacterial resistance, which is causing many vital antibiotics to become ineffective.
6. What should you do if you can't wash your hands?
The aim of washing is to get the germs off your hands so that they won't get into your body or be passed on to others. If you can't wash your hands right away and if you don't have hand sanitizer, take special care not to rub or scratch your eyes or nose or touch your mouth.