As simple as it may seem, proper handwashing remains the most effective way of removing germs and harmful bacteria from our hands.

This prevents the spread of diseases and keeps your environment safe, fresh, and clean.

There are many easy ways to keep the hands clean. The common methods used in many workplaces include the use of sufficient soap and water or good alcohol-based sanitizers when water is not easily accessible.

It will be easier to take hand washing more seriously when we know the benefits of keeping the hands clean as much as possible and also keeping the environments properly sanitised.

The Danger Zones

Bacteria is everywhere! We have them inside our bodies too! Some of them are good and we need them to function properly, but the others can create havoc. If they take over the immune system, you may become ill.

The most common place in our home or workplace where bacteria are most likely to have spread is the bathroom. For obvious reasons, bathrooms are thriving places for bacteria to fester until they can be carried and transferred to other objects by contact.

The bacteria eventually gets on your mobile phones, clothes, door knobs and into your body. This is why it is important to properly wash the hands since that is the first line of defense against the bacterial contagion.

There are troubling statistics that indicate a large percentage of credit cards and mobile phones have tested positive for traces of faecal waste on them.

A study conducted by the Harvard Medical School gives the expression ‘dirty money’ and entirely new twist. Namely, it showed that 94% of the dollar bills currently in circulation also tested positive for having traces of faecal waste on them.

For a healthy person with strong immunity, these facts are not a cause for much worry. Unfortunately, not everybody has a strong immune system.

What about the children who are just building up their immune systems and the more susceptible elderly citizens; not to mention those who are managing diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. These people have weakened immune systems and are always at risk of contracting harmful bacteria if they live in dirty environments.

So, in addition to advocating for the regular washing of hands, it is also important to note that for our hands to be actually free from germs, they have to be washed the right way.

Do You Wash Your Hands the Right Way?

The Harvard Medical School’s regular health publications indicate that the hands must be rubbed together for at least 15 seconds after applying soap. After this is done, the hands can be rinsed under a tap.

Good hand washing requires focusing on the palms, back of the hands and also the fingertips. Here, we have highlighted the proper steps to washing your hands to keep them free from harmful bacteria.

  • Get your hands wet by holding them under the tap for a few seconds
  • Rub the soap all over your palms and the back of your hands.
  • When there is enough lather, keep rubbing your palms together.
  • Rub the palm of one hand over the back of the other hand running the fingers through each other at the same time; repeat this for the other hand.
  • Rub your palms together, running your fingers through each other as well.
  • With the fingers of one hand, run the back of the finger on the other hand and vice versa.
  • Rub the thumbs on the palms of each hand one after the other in circular motions.
  • Take the fingers of one hand in the palms of the other and rub in circular motion, do this for both hands.
  • Rinse both hands with water.
  • Dry your hands preferably with a paper towel.
  • Use this towel to turn the tap off.

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Hand Soap Dispensers
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How Often Should You Wash Your Hands?

It’s obvious that you need to wash your hands regularly, but what does that mean? Can you wash your hands too much? Well, washing your hands too much can hurt your skin, but a that can be remedied with hand lotion.

There is no daily quota of hand washing that you have to hit in order to stay healthy. It all depends on your environment and what are you doing throughout the day.

You should wash your hands:

  • After using the toilet
  • Before touching or eating food
  • When they are dirty
  • After a prolonged use of objects known to harbour bacteria e.g. mobile phones, steering wheel on public use cars, visibly dirty door knobs etc
  • Wash your hands if you sneeze or cough into your hands

It is actually easier for children who are closely monitored to keep their hands clean with constant reminders. On the other hand, adults who are usually caught up with the daily activities have a higher tendency to overlook hand washing.

Knowing the positive impact of handwashing on your life and family generally is a good motivating factor to keep up with good hygienic habits. Below are the most important benefits of handwashing you should take note of:

1. Creating a safer working environment for medical staff and the patients

The nature of many kinds of medical procedures is very delicate. It usually deals with exposed internal organs or passing drugs into the body. So in these particular cases hand washing has to be taken seriously because harmful bacteria can easily get into our bodies to cause more harm.

Good medical facilities have the basic facilities for hand washing easily accessible. These facilities should be used regularly by the doctors, patients, and visitors.

Additionally, those facilities need to be absolutely sanitary and the soap dispensers, sanitizers and other items need to be replenished regularly. Also, special waste disposal units need to be in the washroom, as well.

The efforts for creating a safer working environment also include a more thorough and more detailed hand scrubbing than it is expected from other employees. There is a certain way medical personal prepares for the surgeries and interventions and it requires a lot of high-quality soap.

2. Prevention of diarrhoea and uncomfortable intestinal diseases

Contact with faecal matter laden with the causative bacteria can lead to diarrhoea and intestinal illnesses. Regular washing of the hands will remove this faecal matter and bacteria from our hands even when we have contacted them from other people or objects.

If this contamination happens over and over again, it is possible that your employees develop chronic issues with the intestinal bacteria. The new bacteria that a person introduces to their intestinal system by dirty hands destroys the balance which is difficult to restore. This is called SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.

While there are many treatments of such diseases, they are very stubborn and best prevented. You know what the prevention includes? Of course – regular and diligent hand washing.

3. Avoidance of common eye infections

Eye infections are commonly caused by the bacteria that get into the eyes from our hands. It would be great if you could refrain from touching your eyes with your bare hands. However, it usually happens involuntary.

Therefore, it is best to handle this in another way. Control what you can – wash your hands. Keeping the hands clean by regular washing will prevent common infections.

However, the common eye infections that happen as a result of direct contact with different germs are:

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Keratitis
  • Stye
  • Blepharitis

All these infections start with similar symptoms: redness of the eye, mild pain, itching sensation, blurry vision and the like. Again, while these issues are not very difficult to treat, prevention is a much wiser course of action. You should never touch your eyes with unwashed hands and your hand washing needs to be thorough.

Here are free hand washing posters that you can download and post in your office washrooms to constantly remind your employees to practice good hand hygiene in the workplace.

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Don’t let them divide & conquer
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Germs are big commuters
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It only takes 30 seconds

4. Obstruction of respiratory tract infections

In the same way, the germs that cause these infections are usually found on dirty hands. Regular washing of the hands will remove these germs easily, keeping you safe.

Germs that cause respiratory infections include bacteria, viruses and even some fungi. The symptoms can be quite common for all of them:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal discharge
  • Nasal congestion

However, the flu might be the most annoying and the most common respiratory infection. While the virus that causes it is airborne, transmission through air is not that efficient. The truth is, the most cases of flu are caused by viruses being transmitted to the wet patches of the face by dirty hands.

5. Reduction of the bacteria content on your hands

Bacteria have been known to linger on the hands and other objects for days! This means that if you do not wash your hands expecting the bacteria to die, you might be in for a surprise. They will stay on your hands, or even worse – make their way to your eyes or mouth, causing infections.

Don’t forget to pay extra care to washing underneath your nails. Those that are prone to nail biting may suffer from many unpleasant consequences.

Bacteria have been known to thrive on paper bills for as long as two entire weeks. This is scary, but regular hand washing can keep you protected.

6. Keeping your workplace free from bacteria

Regular cleaning of commonly used office equipment with an alcohol-based cleaning product can reduce the number of bacteria on them.
Still, this doesn’t save you from their presence. You should also wash your hand regularly to prevent your hands from being the medium through which the bacteria is carried all around the office.

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Generally, proper handwashing keeps you healthy.

We are almost constantly surrounded by people. There will be people sneezing and coughing all around you. If bacteria lands on your hands, it can get into your body if you don’t wash those hands.

Hand sanitizers can also be used to reduce the bacteria when there is no soap or water. The use of hand sanitizers will not give the same protection as an actual hand washing but you will end up with fewer bacteria on your hands.

The best practice is to wash the hands properly and thoroughly dry them. After that, finish off with a drop of sanitizer. In that way, your hands will be perfectly clean.

This all sounds reasonable and it seems like a no-brainer. Still, a lot of people don’t do it enough. It’s not that people don’t want to be clean. It’s mostly that they forget to wash their hands when they should. That’s why they need to be reminded, especially in the workplace where they can do the most harm.

Ensure the safe and healthy workplace by partnering up with Fresh & Clean. Fresh and Clean offers a variety of hygiene solutions for businesses – big or small, and from any industry.

Call us today to find out how we can help.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Images by Arlington County