How do you wash your hands?
You usually learn how to wash your hands in preschool -- and it looks like most of us have been getting it wrong ever since.
I know, I know. How could you possibly wash your hands wrong? Turn on the sink, rinse, grab some soap, rinse again, dry, and you're done.
Well, yes and no.
That's about the order of things, but a new study shows that nearly everyone manages to botch it anyway. In this one, Michigan State
University researchers hung around the sinks in 12 public restrooms, watching some 3,700 people wash (or not wash).
They found that:
- 95 percent wash their hands wrong;
- 33 percent don't bother with soap, including 50 percent of men and 21 percent of women;
- 10 percent don't even wash at all (yuck!), including 15 percent of men and 7 percent of women; and
- Those "wash your hand signs" we like to joke about actually work, as people are more likely to wash when they're there.
The most common mistake is a matter of timing, as most people spend just 6 seconds washing up, according to the study in the Journal of Environmental Health.
Can you really call that washing? That's more like just getting your hands wet and spreading the germs around.
Instead, make sure you suds up and wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. The CDC says washing for at least 20 seconds can kill germs, including the flu virus, and suggests singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice (preferably in your head, especially in public restrooms).
I've heard other people suggest the alphabet song. But you don't have to sing a song -- all you have to do is get back to the basics you learned in preschool.
Get your hands wet, add some soap and then count to 20 -- slowly -- as you lather and wash your hands. Be sure to cover all the surfaces of your hands, including the backs, across your fingertips and under your fingernails.
Rinse carefully, dry thoroughly, and -- considering how many people don't wash at all -- use a paper towel to grab the doorknob, lest you contaminate your hands all over again.