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Wash Away the 5 Most Common Handwashing Myths
Cincinnati — Sept. 19, 2014 — Think you know how to wash your hands? Think again. A 2013 study showed that only 5 percent of people properly wash their hands on a daily basis. In honor of International Clean Hands Week, Sept. 21-27, Cintas Corp. and Henry the Hand Foundation have teamed up to dispel the five most common handwashing myths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps people can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that people touch their faces an average of 3.6 times per hour. And with more than 50 percent of healthy persons carrying Staphylococcus aureus in or on their nasal passages, throat, hair, or skin, handwashing is something people can’t afford to do wrong.
“From schools to hospitals to office buildings, germs linger everywhere,” said Dr. Will Sawyer, infection-prevention specialist and founder of Henry the Hand Foundation. “We constantly touch our faces and other common surfaces throughout the day — often unconsciously. By making sure you follow proper handwashing protocols, you can help stop the spread of these germs, protecting yourself and others from potential sickness.”
To clean up hand washing misconceptions, Cintas and Henry the Hand Foundation have identified the following myths:
1. It doesn’t matter how long I wash my hands as long as I use soap. FALSE
The next time you’re in the restroom washing your hands, think of the chorus of your favorite song. Studies show you should scrub your hands with soap for a minimum of 15 to 30 seconds in order to effectively remove germs.
2. Hand sanitizers can replace washing your hands with soap and water. FALSE
Washing hands with soap and water is the most effective way to reduce the number of microbes and germs on hands. Although alcohol-based (at least 60 percent) hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, they are not as effective as soap and water when it comes to removing and inactivating dangerous gastrointestinal illness-causing germs such as Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile.
3. The hotter the water you use for handwashing, the better. FALSE
Studies show that water temperature does not affect microbe removal. In fact, there is no research to prove that higher temperatures improve handwashing at all. Hotter water can also dry out skin, which leaves your skin more susceptible to germs and can make handwashing painful. It is best to wash your hands at the temperature you find comfortable.
4. You don’t have to dry your hands after washing them. FALSE
Studies show that germs can be more easily transferred to and from wet hands, which is why drying hands is essential to staving off bacteria after handwashing.
5. Hand dryers are more hygienic than paper towels. FALSE
In studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic (Minn.) and University of Westminster (London), researchers found that paper towels are superior to air dryers and can help remove bacteria, unlike air dryers which can increase bacteria counts. Because air dryers have been shown to spread bacteria 3 to 6 feet from the device, paper towels are also far less likely to contaminate other restroom users.
“Many people don’t realize that they are washing their hands incorrectly,” said Dave Mesko, senior director of marketing for Cintas Corp. “As we head into flu season, effective infection prevention depends upon proper handwashing, so it’s important to learn and use correct practices.”
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