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A Handwashing Expose

Posted in Outbreaks & Recalls on September 5, 2018

Not many people know this, but Monday, October 15, 2018, is Global Handwashing Day.  It is an awareness event which emphasizes the simple practice of using soap and water to ward off life-threatening diseases.  While handwashing is a simple hygienic act, not many people actually practice this skill.  A survey conducted by the Bradley company showed that while 92 percent of Americans say they believe it’s important to wash their hands after using the restroom, only 66 percent actually do.  Almost 70 percent admitted they skip using soap in the handwashing process.


If you are washing your hands less than 6 times a day, then you are failing in basic hygiene.  According to the Global Hygiene Council, hands should be washed more than six times a day with soap and water to be considered the basic hygiene minimum.

While many people may say that seems like a lot, really it is not.  You should wash your hands before every meal.  If you eat 3 to 4 times a day, then you should be washing your hands each time.  You should also wash your hands after every restroom trip.  The average person uses the restroom at least 8 times a day.  In the grand scheme of things, washing your hands more than 6 times a day is not really asking too much.  Ten times a day is a much better goal.


Washing your hands more than six times a day will help fight against infectious diseases.  Handwashing is considered the single most important act which can help improve public health.  It can reduce child death from diarrhea by almost half.  In the developing world, one in five newborns death occurs because babies are not being handled with clean hands.

While good hygiene is important, washing your hands too much can also be harmful to your health.  The overuse of hand sanitizer may cause children to lose the ability to build up resistance to bacteria.  It is believed that this has caused an increase in the number of children with allergies and environmental sensitivities.  It can also cause hands to dry out, crack and bleed, which allows germs to enter the body.


You accumulate germs on your hands throughout the day by touching people, surfaces, and objects.  You can possible infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth or spread them to others.  Handwashing frequently will help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes.

Besides washing your hands after visiting the restroom and before eating, when should you wash your hands?  It is recommended that hands should be washed after touching animals, after changing a baby’s diaper, before feeding a child, and before preparing food or handling raw meat, fish, or poultry.  It is also good to wash your hands and/or use a hand antiseptic before and after tending to a sick person.

Also, wash your hands when they are visibly dirty.


Many hands soaps have marketed themselves as antibacterial because they contain triclosan.  However, research has shown that antibacterial soaps are no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap.  It found that using antibacterial soap might lead to the development of bacteria that is resistant to the soap which can make it harder to kill in the future.  So, use them sparingly if you must. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Antibacterial soaps, such as those containing triclosan, are no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap might even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product’s antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.”

In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruling stating the certain over-the-counter antibacterial soaps, which contained triclosan and triclocarban, can no longer be marketed to consumers as antibacterial.  These products included liquid, foam, and gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes.


A new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that 97 percent of the time, people are not washing their hands properly.  The new report stated that an overwhelming majority of people are not washing their hands long enough.  Many of them don’t even bother to wet them at all, and too many don’t dry them with a clean towel.

It is generally best to wash your hands with soap and water.

These are the steps to properly wash your hands:

  • Wet your hands with running water (warm or cold).
  • Apply liquid, bar or powder soap to a cupped hand.
  • Lather well.
  • Rub your hands, palm to palm, vigorously for at least 20 second (hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice). Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel.
  • Use the towel to off the faucet.


When soap and water are not available, it is acceptable to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.  If you do use a hand sanitizer, make sure the product contains at least 60 percent alcohol.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are OK for children and adolescents, however, be sure to supervise them while using it. Swallowing alcohol-based sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning.

The CDC recommends,

“Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Furthermore, hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals from hands. Be cautious when using hand sanitizers around children; swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning if a person swallows more than a couple mouthfuls.”

They also warn:

“From 2011 – 2015, U.S. poison control centers received nearly 85,000 calls about hand sanitizer exposures among children. Children may be particularly likely to swallow hand sanitizers that are scented, brightly colored, or attractively packaged.  Hand sanitizers should be stored out of the reach of young children and should be used with adult supervision. Child-resistant caps could also help reduce hand sanitizer-related poisonings among young children. Older children and adults might purposefully swallow hand sanitizers to become drunk.”


Help children and adults stay healthy by encouraging them to frequently wash their hands.  Handwashing is a great way to prevent illness and to protecting your heath.

By: Keeba Smith, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)