You remember what it was like in the earliest days of the pandemic before we knew much about the coronavirus. Many folks were so freaked out they took the handwashing a bit too far, literally scrubbing their skin right off.
Hand soaps and sanitizers were as hard to find as toilet paper and bleach for much of that first year. Then we learned COVID-19 is a respiratory infection. Inhaling airborne particles was the actual threat.
Once the coronavirus is on your hands or even in food, it’s VERY unlikely to make anyone sick. So hand washing was no longer a top priority. And most folks relaxed their scrubbing routines.
But new research shows why it’s STILL crucial to keep up good hand hygiene. Especially as we head into the fall and winter months. Because with cold and flu season right around the corner, the coronavirus isn’t the only bug we need to be concerned about.
And the new study takes a closer look at the old rule of thumb about how long it takes to wash all the nasties away.
Is the old 20-second rule REAL or BOGUS?
For years, experts have advised people not to JUST wash their hands. But to give them a good soapy scrub under running water for at least 20 seconds instead, to ensure you get ALL the germs off.
And most folks…well, let’s be honest… roll their eyes.
Because, except for that brief period last year when we all turned into dedicated hand-scrubbers, most people ignore the “20-second rule” for hand washing. Instead, they do a quick splash, rub, rinse, and dry.
In fact, one study found that just 5 percent of hand-washers spend more than 15 seconds on the task. And if you’ve ever been in a public restroom, you know there’s an alarming number of people who don’t wash at all.
But the new study puts it all to the test. And it’s time to quit the eye-rolling. Because this time, the experts were spot on.
It turns out that 20 seconds of handwashing is exactly what you need to wipe out the germs that are doing their best to make you sick. (Just be sure to skip the restroom hand dryers when you do… yuck!)
Proper handwashing helps you stay healthy
The new study is a mathematical model that takes the surface of your skin into consideration. And that’s critical. Because we like to think of our skin as smooth as a baby’s bum. But it’s actually far from it.
Your hands, in particular, are loaded with creases, crevices, and folds. In other words, the perfect hiding spots for germs to duck and cover. And if your handwashing technique consists of a quick splash, they’re likely to survive, as the new study confirms.
The researchers found if you wash too quickly or gently, there’s a good chance you won’t lift some of the germs from their hiding places. In other words, they’ll still be lurking on your skin, ready and waiting to make you or someone else sick.
So it’s time to recommit to the 20-second rule for effective hand washing. Make sure you lather and scrub like you really mean to wipe out those little monsters. To time yourself, try singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
Because while coronavirus might not make you sick when it’s on your hands if you touch your eyes or mouth when a cold or flu virus is hiding out, THEY certainly can.
And if you’re heading back out this autumn after COVID-19 canceled all the fun last year and you won’t be near running water, be sure to bring along some hand sanitizer.