Lathering up with Soap and Water: The best way to clean your hands.

Lathering up with Soap and Water: The best way to clean your hands.

Hi, this is Adriana, the beekeeper from South Mountain Bees.

Looking for information on how to wash your hands, in a Harvard Health Letter from the Harvard Medical School, I found that lathering up with soap and water is the best way to remove germs from our hands. 

It says: "New products clamor for our attention, but plain old soap and water is still a good way to clean your hands. In studies, washing hands with soap and water for 15 seconds (about the time it takes to sing one chorus of "Happy Birthday to You") reduces bacterial counts by about 90%. When another 15 seconds is added, bacterial counts drop by close to 99.9% (bacterial counts are measured in logarithmic reductions). Few of us wash our hands that long — 5 seconds is more like it. One reason you're supposed to use cool or lukewarm water is to increase the chances you'll wash them a little longer. "

But how does soap work? Imagine that a soap molecule has two hands, one that holds on to water, and another one that holds on to grease and oils where the germs are, and when we rinse our hands the germs are flushed away.

The same letter says: "Soap and water don't kill germs; they work by mechanically removing them from your hands. Running water by itself does a pretty good job of germ removal, but soap increases the overall effectiveness by pulling unwanted material off the skin and into the water. In fact, if your hands are visibly dirty or have food on them, soap and water are more effective than the alcohol-based "hand sanitizers" because the proteins and fats in food tend to reduce alcohol's germ-killing power. This is one of the main reasons soap and water is still favored in the food industry."

And don't forget to dry your hands thoroughly!

"Even people who are conscientious about washing their hands make the mistake of not drying them properly. Wet hands are more likely to spread germs than dry ones. It takes about 20 seconds to dry your hands well if you're using paper or cloth towels..."

You can learn more about how soap removes germs here.

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