Forty seconds to a minute. That’s how long we should be washing our hands to really do the job of cleaning, and not just the superficial job. I doubt I wash for half that time, and for my son it’s probably less as he rushes to meals, to TV, or to the next best thing (which, let’s face it, is mostly anything).
I’m not here to bleat about why you should wash your hands, and how germs lurk everywhere, and why I spray on hand sanitiser after removing money from the slot of a parking machine (the stats are gross), but rather I’m including tips on how to get to that optimal 40 seconds-plus of wash time, and when you should wash.
Here are Dettol’s guidelines (part of their Worry Less Love More campaign) for when to wash:
- Before handling food or eating.
- Before preparing a baby’s feed or handling sterilised equipment.
- Before applying contact lenses.
- Immediately after handling raw foods, such as poultry.
- After visiting the toilet or changing a nappy.
- After touching animals or their toys or equipment.
- After contact with blood or body fluids (like vomit, nasal secretions, saliva).
- After touching a contaminated area (e.g. cleaning cloth, drain, soil).
- Before and after dressing a wound, giving medicine, or applying a medical device (e.g. catheter).
- More often when someone in your home is sick.
- Whenever hands look dirty.
It’s all very well knowing when, but *how* does one wash for maximum effect? Dettol offers these tips:
- Wet your hands with warm water and apply a small amount of liquid soap.
- Rub your palms together vigorously (away from the water) to make a lather.
- Rub every part of your hands including the backs of your hands, your thumbs, between your fingers, and under and around your nails.
- Continue for at least 20 seconds. It takes that long for the soap and scrubbing action to dislodge and remove the germs.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands thoroughly using a clean dry towel.
Even when soap and water are not available, it is possible to keep your hands hygienically clean. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are designed to destroy the germs on hands that are not visibly dirty, without the need for water or towels, and are ideal for situations where you cannot easily get to a sink.
Tips for getting kids to wash their hands:
- Sing a song together for the duration of hand washing, for example “happy birthday to you” or “The Wheels on The Bus”
- Make it a “special time” – set up a towel for them that they’ve chosen, a stool, and soap that belongs to them. Praise them when they wash.
- Use an hourglass or kitchen timer to make it more fun (and accurate too).
- Do a roleplay: pretend you’re a major in the army, and you’re calling out commands to your child. “Fingers!” “Back!” Front!” “Palms!”
- Incorporate it into a routine from as early on as possible, just like manners, eating, drinking and play.
- (PS: And while I’m being germ-aware, don’t ruin the “good work” of hand washing by not cleaning or disinfecting those hot spots such as phones, light switches, door knobs, fridge handles, microwave buttons, taps and keyboards).
Look out next week!
I’ll be giving away two Dettol hampers worth R270 each. You can follow Dettol on Facebook, or the hashtag #WorryLessLoveMore