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5 Things You Might Not Know About Hand Washing

Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to the people around you. Many diseases are spread by not cleaning your hands properly. Here are five important thins you might not know about washing your hands, and why it matters so much.

1. Soap is key.

  • Washing your hands with soap removed germs much more effectively than using water alone. The compounds that make soap suds up help remove soil and germs from your skin. You also tend to scrub your hands more thoroughly when you use soap, which also helps to remove germs.

2. It takes longer than you might think.

  • The optimal length of time to wash your hands depends on a few factors, including the type and amount of soil on your hands. Evidence suggests that washing your hands for about 15-30 seconds removed more germs than washing for shorter periods. The CDC recommends washing your hands for about 20 seconds, or the time that it takes to hum the "Happy Birthday" song twice from beginning to end.

3. It's all about technique.

  • Make sure to clean the spots on your hands that people miss most frequently. Pay particular attention to the backs of your hands, in between your fingers, and under your nails. Lathering and scrubbing your hands creates friction, which helps remove dirt, grease, and germs from your skin.

4. Don't forget to dry.

  • Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands, so you should dry your hands after washing. Studies suggest that using a clean towel or letting your hands air dry are the best methods to get your hands dry.

5. Hand sanitizer is an option.

  • If you can't get to a sink to wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Make sure you use enough to cover all surfaces of your hands. Do not rinse or wipe off the hand sanitizer before it is dry.

  • Note that hand sanitizer may not kill all germs, especially if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, so it's important to wash hands with soap and water as soon as possible after using hand sanitizer.

Why it matters:

  • Remember, clean hands save lives. Diarrheal disease and pneumonia are the top two killers of young children around the world, killing 1.8 million children under the age of five every year. Among young children, hand washing with soap prevents 1 out of every 3 diarrheal illnesses, and 1 out of 5 respiratory infections worldwide.

To read the original article by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click HERE.

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