Hand washing is an essential and important part of not getting sick, or making others sick. And most of us suck at it. If you only wash your hands for a few seconds, or if you sort of wave them under the tap and then dry your hands on a grubby towel, it’s time to step up your game.
Our skin is pretty good at keeping germs out, but the bacteria and viruses that cause colds, flu and diarrheal illnesses can ride around on our hands waiting for an opportunity to infect someone. Whenever you touch your hands to someone’s bodily fluids (or just a random surface that someone may have sneezed on), you can pick up those germs. And then when you touch your eyes, mouth, or nose — or eat finger food, which is basically the same as touching your mouth — you can possibly transmit those germs in a way that makes you more likely to get sick.
Here’s how to wash your hands so that you stand a chance of avoiding the office plague:
Turn on the water. Warm or cool water works just fine and doesn’t irritate skin as much as hot water.
Lather up with soap. It doesn’t have to be antibacterial; regular is fine.
Turn off the water. You’re going to be here a while.
Scrub for 20 seconds, making sure to get the backs of your hands and between your fingers. Hum “happy birthday” twice. Yes, this will feel like too long. Most people get bored after about 10 seconds. But you can do this. We believe in you.
Rinse your hands.
Dry your hands, because germs stick better to wet hands than dry ones. Air dry or use a clean towel.
If you’re washing your hands a lot, apply a moisturiser from time to time to keep your skin from getting too dry and cracked.
In a situation where you can’t wash your hands, hand sanitiser is better than nothing. But it works best on dry, clean skin, and you have to rub the sanitiser for about 20 seconds until it evaporates and dries out for best results.