Consider what your hands come in contact with during just the first few hours of your day:
Toilets; used toilet paper; brushes; combs; pets; hair; clothing; shoes; shoelaces; dirty laundry; dead skin; furniture; utensils; cups; plates; food; salt shaker; hot sauce bottles; trash bags; kleenex; backpacks; books; pens; pencils; purses; briefcases; steering wheel; newspapers; tabletops; desktops; keyboards; doorknobs; assorted handles; hats; glasses; and mail. This is just a partial list, obviously. But each single one of these items can harbor microbes that could prove harmful, even fatal, to your wellbeing! The fact of the matter is that every single thing you touch has the potential to transfer bacteria and viruses to your hand.
These minute hitchhikers include proteobacteria, streptococcus mutans, lactobacillus, mycobacteria, pseudomonas, enterobacteriaceae, and staphylococcus. To mention just a few. The world we live in is teeming with microbes, and most of them serve a necessary and benign purpose. But a small minority are truly black hats; their only purpose is to harm you.
You may think that a casual wipe down with a rag soaked in bleach water will take care of all the little nastykins that would otherwise latch on to your hands, just waiting for an opportunity to get inside of you -- but you’d be wrong. According to Elliott Greenberg, founder of bathroom supply store Touch Free Concepts, “While most bacteria don’t care for bleach, they do thrive in a moist environment. So tabletops glistening with moisture from your cleaning efforts are some of the best breeding grounds for germs around.”
Maintaining hand cleanliness with proper and constant hand hygiene is probably the most crucial step you can take to avoid illness and the spread of microbes to those around you. Quite a few serious diseases, as well as minor sniffles and sneezes, can be spread simply by neglecting to wash hands with plain soap and tap water from the faucet. Sometimes clean running water may not be immediately accessible, especially in a Third World country -- but if you use plenty of soap it really doesn’t matter what the purity of the water may be. It’s the scrubbing with lots of soap that matters. And if both soap and water prove to be elusive -- there are many alcohol gel hand sanitizers available -- to be effective, read the label to make sure they contain at least sixty percent denatured alcohol.
Always wash your hands after these things:
Preparing food -- even from a can or frozen box/pouch
Eating food -- especially if you’re eating out or get takeout
Contact with someone who is sick
Taking care of a cut, scratch, and especially a wound
Blowing your nose
Coughing and sneezing
Touching any animal, including household pets
Cleaning up after a pet (or after a baby!)
Handling any kind of pet treat or foods
Taking out the trash
This is how health professionals wash their hands:
Get hands thoroughly wet with either hot or cold water
Lather up with either liquid or bar soap. Avoid ‘antibacterial’ soaps, as they do more harm than good.
Don’t forget to clean the back of your hands, in between your fingers, and don’t neglect the fingernails -- it’s the best friend and hiding place a germ can have!
Lather for at least 20 seconds, or as long as it takes you to hum Pop Goes the Weasel.
Rinse your hands thoroughly, making sure to get any soap scum off
Air drying your hands is the best way to keep from getting contaminated, or else use paper towels.