Hand-Washing

I have a subscription to a little magazine called Nutrition Action, published by The Center for Science in the Public Interest. It consistently has good information, so I maintain my subscription.

I was reading November’s issue and the main article was about bacteria, yeast, mold found in the average American home.

The gist: your kitchen is really dirty.

But what was interesting to me were some tidbits about cleaning your hands.

The article suggested washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds – two choruses of Happy Birthday – which is advice I have seen in many places. The rubbing action removes not only what is on the skin but also removes dead skin cells – and whatever is living on them. Drying them on a towel adds to this positive effect.

What was new to me about hand-washing is that the temperature of the water doesn’t matter. “…washing your hands with water that’s at 40°F removes the same amount of germs as washing with water that’s at 120°F.”

Of course, there was also information about antibacterial soaps. I already knew that antibacterial cleaners of any kind (including but not limited to hand and dish soap) contribute to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and they also contribute to a lack of good bacteria in our guts (which are, ironically, ultimately responsible for our immune systems).

Several new pieces of information that were of interest:

Studies that show effectiveness of these soaps have people scrub for 60 to 90 seconds. Do you scrub for that long?

These soaps also aren’t antibacterial on first contact. They build up an “antibacterial surface” over time with repeated usage and need to be used more than once or twice per day.

Only one good published study has compared soaps with and without triclosan at a concentration similar to what’s in popular soaps. After volunteers washed for 30 seconds at a time (think three verses of ‘Happy Birthday’), six times a day for five days, bacterial counts on the hands of the triclosan-soap users were no lower than counts on the hands of the ordinary-soap users.

What’s more, people in households that use triclosan-containing products are no less likely to get sick than people in households that don’t use them.

Moral of the story? Wash your hands with regular soap when you want them to be clean. Dry them with a towel if available. Skip the antibacterial soaps.

Does any of this information affect your habits?

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Stephanie on 24 October 2011 at 10:02

    yes. I will be happy to know that I can just wash my hands normally with normal soap and dry them on a towel and not have to be OBSESSED with getting a product with triclosan. thank you.

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