I recently worked at a daycare. And where there are kids, there are germs. It really got me thinking about hand soap and hand washing.
There are so many products on the market: liquid, foam, and bars. How do we choose which best? What about antibacterial or regular? How long do I need to wash? Does water temperature matter? How effective are hand sanitizers?
It was time to start investigating!
Hand Soap. Where do we start?
Did you know, most communicable diseases are transferred by touch? If we wash our hands, we protect ourselves from illness and disease. Flu, respiratory illness, viruses, salmonella, and e-coli can all be avoided, to an extent.
How does hand washing actually work?
Harmful microorganisms cling to the hands in the form of fats and proteins. Bacteria loves to harbor itself in an oily, warm environment. Can you blame it? That’s why water needs soap to reduce barriers of these fats and proteins. The ideal combination is running water and soap to break down and wash away the germs.
Foam hand soap vs. bar hand soap
Foam hand soap is increasingly popular today. Some of them even tell you how many pumps you could get out of one bottle. Cost effective right? Because foam hand soap is mixed with air, the lather is already there, so you do less actual washing. However, this fascinating study indicated that foam was less effective than liquid, leaving a less than a desirable number of bacteria on the hands after hand washing.
Bar soaps get a bad wrap, as well. Because it is a solid product, it may hold on to previous bacteria from the last user. But there is good news! When mixed with water, the old bacteria from the last user washes away and it is as effective as the other liquids you may be using. As long as you are washing with warm water for the right amount of time, it washes away germs.
That brings us to our next question. . .
How long should a person wash their hands?
The recommended amount of time is 20 seconds. Anyone can do anything for 20 seconds, right? And nope, longer time periods didn’t prove to have more germ killing.
When I was researching this time topic, I realized that I didn’t wash for 20 seconds. In fact, as many as 84-95% of people don’t typically wash long enough to remove germs from their hands! Most only wash for about 6 seconds.
Is antibacterial better than regular soap?
When you compare hand soap on the market, you’ll see claims that the product has “germ killing” capabilities or is “antibacterial”. These are false. Antibacterial hand soap product claims are exactly that: CLAIMS. There is no research to support that they’re better or more effective than regular hand soap. Don’t we all feel better now?
What water temperature should I use?
Warm water is always best for hand washing. It clings to the fats and oils that harbor bacteria and rinses them away. Hot water does not kill germs unless it is extremely hot. Cold water was least effective in doing anything but getting hands wet. In an equation (yes, I’m doing math):
Warm running water + liquid hand soap + 20 seconds = clean hands
In conclusion, washing your hands with soap and water is the absolute best way to lessen the number of germs on them. If you do not have soap and water available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60% alcohol. Below is a recipe for homemade hand sanitizer using essential oils.
Homemade Hand Sanitizer
You will need :
- 1-2 oz toxin-free plastic bottle or glass spray bottle
- Plain vodka (any)
- Aloe vera gel
- Lavender essential oil
- Tea tree essential oil or peppermint if you prefer
- Start by filling up your bottle 1/3 of the way full with vodka (Use the rest of the vodka to make Pepper Juice during cold and flu season!).
- Add 12 drops lavender oil and 12 drops tea tree or peppermint.
- Fill the rest of the way with aloe gel and shake. Easy, cheap and portable. Win!
It is my hope that I cleared up a few things about soap myths. Now, if only we could get our kids on board. 🙂