Handwashing 101: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Keeping Your Hands Clean

Being clean is a good thing. We know this. But we’ve become so obsessed with killing those evil germs that we’ve gone a little nutty.

I’m doing the dirty work for you today to break down the basics of hand sanitation so that you can wash your hands of that task.

I love a pun.

Antibacterial products are everywhere these days and a lot of them are loaded with nasty chemicals like triclosan and triclocarbons, which have been shown to interfere with our hormones (endocrine systems), irritate our skin and eyes and are linked to antibiotic-resistant bacteria – a.k.a: superbugs! Plus, these toxic chemicals are bio-accumulative; Bit by bit, they accumulate in our bodies. The stuff that doesn’t, we excrete through our waste and flush down the toilet and those toxins then hang around in our water systems. Not good. Antibacterial chemicals have been shown to harm aquatic life forms. Really not good. Environment Canada has flagged triclosan for future assessment. In the meantime, I stay way when I can. You should too.

The straight-up alcohol hand sanitizers are in a different league. They don’t do all the same things as antibacterial products, so they might be a better alternative. But they’re very drying and often contain really strong, hideous fragrances. But, they are convenient and I have certainly used them in the past but I’d only recommend them if you are in a pinch and there is no sink/water. Make sure to rub all over your hands and wait until dry before you touch anything.

Good old soap and water work just as effectively as any sanitizer and that’s the number one way you should be washing microbes off your hands. In order to be effective, you’ve got to wash for at least 20 seconds. You’re probably not used to this length of time, most of us aren’t. So, some suggest singing happy birthday in your head (or out loud) while you wash your hands. This will allow you to pay close attention to your fingernails, wrists and in between your fingers. By the time the song is done, so is your washing. And, who knows, maybe you’ll make some new friends as a washroom warbler.

Washing hands is obviously our first line of defence against all sorts of pathogens including cold and flu virus, and E. coli bacteria to name a few. We need to wash our hands to prevent getting sick, but we don’t need to be paranoid about germs. Being a little bit dirty is good for our immune system. It prepares an internal line of defence in case we experience these germs later on – our immune cells will be locked and loaded.

So, don’t be afraid to get a little dirty, and wash with soap and water in between.

KD

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