7 Things You Didn’t Know You’re Doing Wrong When You Wash Your Hands

Not to alienate anyone by cementing my position as a member of the smug, liberal, media elite here, but I really hope that you are the kind of person who is in the habit of washing your hands at least once a day.

If not, I guess I will say that it is your right to act in ways that are against your best interests. It is not smart! But it is your right. Anyway, if you do wash your hands, I am very happy for you. You are doing something, at least at a cursory level, not to get diseases that could possibly kill you, or, at the very least, make your life very uncomfortable, such as scabies. I do, however, have some bad news for you as well–the way you’re washing your hands is probably wrong. Or, not wrong, exactly, since any kind of hand-washing is better than the alternative (if you are looking to avoid the spread of infectious disease, that is), but there are some small ways that you can make your hand-washing technique more effective. Check ’em out here:

You're Using Antibacterial Soap

You might think that opting for an antibacterial soap is a proactive move--seeing as it, you know, kills bacteria and all--but it's actually pretty detrimental to your overall health. This is because antibacterial soap can actually carry the risk of creating antibacteria-resistant strains of bacteria. Plus, most antibacterial soaps contain ingredients that have been banned by the FDA for not being able to prove their safety and effectiveness. Instead, just use regular soap!

Image source: iStock

You're Not Using Soap At All

Of course, not using antibacterial soap doesn't mean that you should skip it altogether. This might sound self-explanatory to you, but, according to Men's Health, 50 percent of people don't actually use soap when they wash their hands. You, uh, need to use soap. It helps carry away potentially illness-causing bacteria and germs in ways that plain water can't.

Image source: iStock

You Don't Wash For A Long Enough Time

Most of us just do a quick spritz under the sink when we wash (the average hand-washing time is about six seconds), but you actually need to do a lot more. Instead, you should try to sing "Happy Birthday" twice, which takes about twenty seconds, while you're washing. (Sing in your head if you're in public, I guess.) This sounds like a long time, but it's a good way to make sure that there's no residual germs left on your hands.

Image source: iStock

You're Not Getting *In There*

Your hands have a lot of wrinkles and divots on them that can basically serve as a safe haven for germs. So, instead of just rubbing some soap over your palms, make sure you're also getting under your fingernails and scrubbing between your fingers, too.

Image source: iStock

You Only Wash After The Bathroom

Washing after using the bathroom is probably one of the most important times to do it, but by no means is it the only time you should be washing your hands. If you want to prevent illness, you should also make sure to wash before eating, after touching a public surface (think of all the germs on a subway pole or random door knob) and dealing with animals.

Image source: iStock

You Only Use Hot Water

Most people seem to think that, like, scalding-hot water is the only way they can wash their hands. In fact, there's no difference, germ killing-wise, between washing with hot or cold water, but washing with hot water can actually increase your chances of irritation (especially in the winter, when your skin might be getting dry anyway). So, just use cold or lukewarm water--in addition to reducing your chances of irritation, it's also better for the environment.

Image source: iStock

You Don't Dry Off

One vital part of hand-washing is actually the part that comes after you wash your hands--drying them off. Germs do well in moisture, so if your hands are even a little damp when you leave the bathroom, they could pick up germs from anything you touch next, making the fact that you just washed your hands worthless. So, make sure you're actually drying off your hands (with a clean towel, of course) before you call it a day.

Image source: iStock

Were you surprised by any of these facts? Which ones? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.


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