Wetting Your Hands Is Not Washing Your Hands

Wetting Your Hands Is Not Washing Your Hands

This is something I see way too often: some guy uses the toilet, walks up to the sink, trickles some water onto his fingers, shakes them off, then walks out of the restroom. Yuck. That does almost nothing, you impatient, gross monster.

Photo: Sara Laval

You know what? Fine. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were never taught how to wash. Maybe you were raised in one of those stuck-in-the-past communes like in The Village, I don’t know. Anyway, here’s what you absolutely must do after you touch your genitals or wipe your butt (please):

  1. Go to the sink and run some at least somewhat warm water.
  2. Wet hands with said water.
  3. Put either bar or liquid soap on your hands. This is required. Yes, it is. No, trying one soap dispenser then giving up because it’s empty is not ok. Make an effort here, you lazy scum.
  4. Rub hands together for 20 to 30 seconds (No, it is not “too long”). Palm to palm, palm to back of each hand, between your fingers, and so forth. Cover every inch of your hands in sweet, sweet lather. Here are some pictures, if you can’t figure it out.
  5. Rinse the soap — and all those nasty germs and grime — from your hands.

Wow! You did it. Bonus points if you shake your hands as dry as you can (about 12 good shakes should do it) so you don’t have to use 80 paper towels to dry off.

If you’re wondering why the soap is so important, it’s because it’s a surfactant, which makes dirt, bacteria, and other disgusting crud on your hands slide right off in the water.

Is rinsing with only water better than doing nothing at all? Yes, sort of, I guess (wet germs sound worse to me). But come one, just take the extra minute to use soap and actually clean yourself, you filthy animal.

And while hand sanitizer can work in a pinch, it doesn’t remove dirt and grime, and shouldn’t be relied on. If there’s no soap, at least run your hands under hot water for a few seconds and vigorously wipe off your hands with a paper towel instead of splashing a few drops on your fingers before wiping them on your nasty jeans.


  • Is it not the physical action of rubbing your hands and wiping them dry on a towel the predominant factor in the removal of germs? That is why blow drying your hands is so ineffective when referring to removing germs in comparison with using a towel.

    Although let’s not forget the presence of “Good” germs on the skin, and why I hate the idea of antibacterial hand sanitisers.

    I wet my hands and wipe them as I would like to think that would be more effective in removing germs than not, it increases the friction in rubbing my hands. But let’s be honest, you don’t need hand sanitiser if you’re thorough enough in rubbing then, both during and after water.

    Also, regarding the temperature of the water, it would have to be scolding hot to actually make a difference in removing bacteria. Unless you’re using soap in which case acts as somewhat of a catalyst, similar to dishwashing detergent.

    While I agree you should wash your hands more thoroughly if you’ve just defecated, if all you did was a wee, you don’t need to be so anal (pun intended) about washing your hands. In fact, you’ll probably pick up more germs when using the door handle to exit the bathroom than what’s on your hands prior.

    To me, this article just feels like a rant in favour of the overwashing of hands.
    See: The Hygiene Hypothesis.

    • Actually I think the problem with the hand blowers is they’re warm, moist havens for bacteria to grow. So you wash your hands nice and clean then blow a whole bunch of fresh bacteria onto them. Whereas paper towels are use once and gone so they’re less bacteria riddled. I think rubbing hands after washing doesn’t really do much to get rid of germs.

      Good point about the good bacteria and anti-bacterial washes. I’d only use them if I’ve had to do something nasty and really wanted to be clean.

      I don’t think the water temperature is about killing the germs so much as making them easier to remove. That said, I’m not sure whether there is any solid science behind water temperature making soap more effective, or removing dirt/germs in general.

  • What a stupid article, at least half the public bathrooms around don’t even have hot water taps so you can forget about hot or warm water. Same with paper towels.

    Do you seriously stand there and time other peoples hand washing and critique their palm to hand style and soap ratio? Weird.

    • If you think that is weird, Matt1234, wait until you read the follow up article from the author regarding his observed penile hygiene.

    • Yep. At the shopping centre, done the deed; now to wash hands. Found water – so far so good. Ah, no soap or any in the dispensers – now what?! Paper towel? Nope, not available. That’s not environmentally friendly (thanks Greenies!) Have to use very loud, air blower thingy. Hands/fingers now feel sticky and moist. Wonder if it there was any point or benefit to washing hands after all that. Go on with life as usual and hope my immune system can handle all the extra germs that are now on my body.

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