You've Been Washing Your Hands Wrong Your Whole Life, So Here's How To Do It Properly According To Science
As a self-proclaimed germaphobe, I pride myself on my expert hand-washing skills; it's a gift, really. But even I have lived a lie thus far, because it turns out we've all been washing our hands wrong our whole lives. How do I know this? Because science has apparently found a specific way to do it. Very specific. So specific that it requires a step-by-step photo explanation. Hand-washing kind of feels like homework now.
A study recently published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology was conducted by researchers exploring two hand-washing techniques in a UK hospital. 120 participants were split into two groups: One group used the three-step method currently recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) involving alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead of soap and water. (Side note: When did we stop using soap and water?!) The other group employed the World Health Organization's six-step program, which we'll get to in a minute.
In the end, the researchers found that the study participants who had used the six-step method had less bacteria on their hands than the participants of the opposing group. Their colony-forming units per milliliter had decreased from 3.23 to 2.58 (a reduction of .7), while the three-steppers went from 3.08 to 2.88 (a reduction of .2).
The downside? The six-step group also spent an extra eight seconds washing their hands, giving the whole process a total of 43 seconds. That's if you can even call that a downside, though; I mean, we're talking about germs here, people.
So, what goes into the six-step hand-washing method? Grab a chair. Maybe a snack. Get comfortable. This is going to take a minute or 12.
1. Put Your Palms Together And Rub Your Hands
This first step is pretty intuitive. Brace yourselves — it's going to get complicated.
2. Rub Your Hands With Your Fingers Interlaced
So... many... fingers. Are you paying close attention? Palms down! Put one hand on top of the other, interlock your fingers, and scrub-a-dub. Then put the other hand on top and scrub-a-dub again. Then get ready, because we're about to scrub-a-dub even more.
3. Put Your Palms Together Again, Fingers Interlaced
Kind of like the first step, except now your fingers get to get in on the action.
4. I Don't Even Know How To Explain This
Clasp your hands together — one hand will be upside down. The tops of your fingers should be touching the opposing hand's palm. Or something like that.
5. Pull Your Own Finger
Scrub each thumb individually. They're apparently extra, extra dirty.
6. Rub Each Palm With The Fingers Of The Other Hand
Tee-hee! This tickles.
7. Pass Out From Exhaustion [Optional]
So there you have it. If the six-step method is a bit overwhelming for you, at the very least, spend 10 or 15 seconds working up a good lather. Studies have shown that only two thirds of people wash their hands after using the bathroom (that is so disgusting, people — seriously), but doing so can help prevent a whopping 200 diseases. Get scrubbin'!