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What you need to know about handwashing

What you need to know about handwashing

Hand sanitizer is flying off the shelves, prices on amazon are soaring.  With fears surrounding coronavirus folks are stockpiling anything that gives them a sense of control. While hand sanitizers (that are at least 60% alcohol) can be effective if clean running water is not available, the gold standard remains handwashing.  Good old soap and water, seriously.

Let’s talk about the differences between the two

Hand sanitizers rely on chemical composition to kill bacteria and viruses.  Commercial hand sanitizers have minimal ingredients and in order to be effective must contain at least 60% alcohol.  Repeated application can cause some serious dryness or discomfort for those with skin sensitivities. If your hands are dirty or the bacteria/virus is trapped in mucous (think people cough, know, sick) hand sanitizer may not be able to efficiently penetrate and kill the pathogens.  They do serve a purpose, but mainly in instances where clean running water is not available.

Handwashing with soap and water is the best option we have for preventing the spread of illnesses.  Handwashing relies on mechanical action. So while soap can kill germs, the act of lathering along with friction of rubbing actually traps the organisms so they can be rinsed off.

But here’s the thing about handwashing, you have to do it right for it to work!  At least 20 seconds of lathering in between your fingers, up your wrists, under your nails. Wet hands pick up and transmit germs very easily. Don’t wipe those freshly cleaned hands on your pants and call it good.  If no clean towel is available air drying is your next best bet.

  1. Run your hands under clean, running water (hot or cold).
  2. Lather up your hands and fingers with soap.
  3. Scrub for 20 seconds (or as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice).
  4. Rinse your hands with clean water.
  5. Dry your hands completely using a clean towel, a dryer, or let them air-dry.

 "Consumer 101" TV show host Jack Rico shares Consumer Reports’ tips from the experts.

Any soap will work for effective handwashing, but of course I’m a soap maker so I want to use a lovely gentle soap.  The soaps I craft can be used many times throughout the day without drying hands. They are moisturizing and nourishing but still effective. I love the soaps with thick creamy lather like the everybody bar.  I use salt bars all the time for hand washing as well, they lather well and the salt adds a bit of abrasive power for scrubbing off grime.

As a contribution towards good hygiene I will be giving away soap bars (until I run out) at Hillcrest Farmer’s market on Sunday.  They are seconds, they don’t look beautiful and have no labels, but they are still effective, nourishing and gentle. Stop by my booth and ask me for a free soap if you or someone you know needs one.  If you choose to order through the site use the code FREESOAP for a free bar with your order.

So wash your hands!  The CDC recommends washing hands

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

For more information on handwashing, visit CDC’s Handwashing website or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

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