Hand washing is one of the most important things that you can do to stay healthy, even at the best of times. And with experts warning of an imminent COVID-19 surge as we progress into the fall and winter months, it will only become more important.
But with all of the information being thrown out there on how best to keep your hands clean, we wanted to help make it easier to understand.
Here are the steps that you need to follow to make sure that your hands are clean.
Wash Your Hands Regularly
The most straightforward way to clean your hands is, of course, to wash them! However, many of us aren’t washing our hands as completely as we should.
To ensure that you’re getting your hands as clean as possible every time, follow these guidelines.
Wash With Soap and Warm (Not Hot!) Water
It seems simple, but we don’t always wash our hands as well as we should. That’s why we want to make things clearer for you.
For the water, you want the temperature to be warm or lukewarm. Do not turn the heat all the way up in an attempt to kill germs, because any water that you can bear to stick your hands in won’t be hot enough to eliminate the germs.
All hot water will do is dry your hands out, which you don’t want. What you do want is healthy skin, which is more resistant to infections. So do avoid overdrying them. If you’re washing your hands a lot, which should be the case right now, then you’ll want to use hand sanitizers that have aloe in them or apply hand lotion after every wash as well.
As far as soap goes, the type you use doesn’t really matter, so long as you use something. Antibacterial soap is not significantly better at killing germs than regular soap. And bar soap works as well as soft soap.
The only caveat with bar soap is that you want to keep it on a self-draining holder to keep soap scum from building up.
As for how long to wash, the CDC recommends that you scrub for at least 20 seconds, though 30 would be even better. Either counting your Mississippis or singing Happy Birthday to yourself twice are effective ways to mark the time.
Dry Your Hands Well
It’s important to make sure your hands are completely dry after each wash. This is for two reasons.
One, germs pass more easily from wet skin than dry skin. And two, leaving water on your hands can cause your skin to dry out, leading to unhealthy, cracked skin that’s more vulnerable to infection.
In public, either paper towels or air-dryers that don’t require rubbing will do the trick. At home, grab your hand towels but make sure that you change them every day or two. The more moisture your towels pick up, the less effective they’ll be. So, to get the best clean for your hands, rotate your hand towels out.
When to Wash Your Hands
There are a handful of times we should all be washing our hands. Most of us will eat food and use the restroom a few times a day, so those are obvious ones. And anytime you touch an animal, touch pet toys, or clean up after your pets are other times that call for handwashing.
But besides petting your furry friend or going to the bathroom, you should also wash your hands after you cough or sneeze and after taking care of someone who is sick.
If you must go out in public, it’s wise to wash your hands after you’ve touched something. It also helps to avoid touching your face to minimize catching and spreading any sort of virus or infection, such as the coronavirus. There have been conflicting reports on how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces, and the timespan seems to vary widely. So, it’s better to just err on the side of caution by cleaning your hands as soon as you can.
Use Hand Sanitizer When Hand Washing Isn’t an Option
Unfortunately, soap and water aren’t always readily available. In these situations, hand sanitizer is your best friend.
Again, the problem here is that many people don’t use them effectively.
To properly use hand sanitizer, you need at least a quarter-sized dab. Then, you need to thoroughly rub your hands together, getting all the nooks and crannies, particularly under your nails. This should take at least 15-20 seconds.
Do not use hand sanitizer when your hands are visibly dirty and have grime or grease.
Understandably, some parents have questions about whether sanitizers are safe for children to use. But don’t worry. When used as directed by the drug facts on the label, sanitizers are safe for hands of all ages.
Sanitize Surfaces That You Touch Regularly
Even after washing or sanitizing, your hands may be clean but they may not stay that way for long if you end up touching contaminated surfaces. This is usually the case for everyone because germs are everywhere, though it’s not as scary as it sounds.
That’s why it’s important to not only clean your hands, but also surfaces and items that you regularly handle. Think of things like your phone, house keys, fridge handle, and doorknobs.
And especially remember to regularly sanitize any toys or other children’s items. Even outside of a pandemic, these items tend to be germ magnets.
This is also why it’s generally a good idea to wash your hands first thing whenever you come home. You could also carry around a pack of hand sanitizer wipes for extra protection. The fewer opportunities that you have to transfer germs from outside to the inside, the safer your home will be.
Keeping Your Hands Clean Protects You and Those Around You
Making sure that you keep your hands clean is one of the simplest and most effective things that you can do to protect your health. Infections like COVID-19 have multiple possible entry points, and research shows that following the right hand hygiene practices is an effective means of reducing these risks across the board.
By being mindful of your health, you’re protecting those close to you by reducing the chance of passing dangerous germs to them.The COVID-19 pandemic is still going on, and it is unclear when we will see the other side of it. To help yourself stay healthy and live as well as you can, take a look at these sanitizer solutions.