Are you washing your hands all wrong?

Posted on 4 October 2018

Washing your hands is one of the simplest and best things we can do to prevent the spread of germs and foodborne illnesses. But many people either just don’t wash their hands regularly or don’t wash their hands properly.

Why do you need to wash your hands?

Our hands are the tools that we use every single day without even thinking about it. So they tend to pick up germs quite easily. When you touch the escalator at the mall or even just doing simple things around the house, your hands pick up and spread germs quite fast.

Carmen Rottenberg, acting deputy undersecretary for food safety at the USDA recently warned, “You can’t see, smell or feel bacteria. By simply washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent those bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen.”

It’s especially important to clean your hands after using the toilet and before eating because it’s so easy to spread germs and contaminate your food and get very ill that way.

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The results are serious. According to the World Health Organization, thousands of people die every day from infections acquired while receiving health care. Yolanda van Zyl, the Chairperson of ICSSA (Infection Control Society of Southern Africa), says, “there is a big shift towards using alcohol hand rub, more than washing hands. That’s why we use the term ‘hand hygiene’”.

If your hands are not visibly dirty then it’s advisable to use an alcohol-based formulation.

The correct way to wash your hands

If your hands are dirty, then it’s best to wash them with soap and water. A common mistake that a lot of people make is not using soap when washing their hands. Water just spreads the germs around and it is actually the soap and water together with the friction that removes the bacteria from the hands.

The second mistake people make is not to dry their hands. The friction from the paper towel also removes bacteria. Disposable paper towels are the best method for drying your hands; communal towels are discouraged since you are contaminating your hands again when using the towel.

Van Zyl explains the correct way to wash your :

  • Always use running water, soap and paper towels. Make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. The longer, the better!
  • Wet your hands with water and apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces.
  • Rub your hands palm to palm.
  • Place your right palm over the top of your left hand with interlaced fingers and repeat on the opposite hand.
  • Rub your hands palm to palm with fingers interlaced.
  • Rub the backs of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked.
  • Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm and vice versa.
  • Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards, with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa.
  • Rinse your hands with water.
  • Dry thoroughly with a single-use towel.
  • Use a towel to turn off the faucet and your hands are safe.

Washing your hands is an easy and simple way of protecting your family and keeping them safe and healthy.

INFOGRAPHIC: A visual guide to proper hand hygiene


Published in Healthy Life

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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