Stories tagged hand washing


Dyson hand dryer
Dyson hand dryerCourtesy Mr T in DC

How you dry your hands matters

Dyson, who makes a new type of "airblade" hand dryer, funded research which showed regular hot-air hand dryers could make your hands "germier".

When volunteers kept their hands still, the dryers reduced skin bacteria numbers by around 37 per cent compared to just after washing. But the count rose by 18 per cent when volunteers rubbed their hands under one of the machines. Paper towels proved the most efficient, halving the bacterial count even though volunteers rubbed their hands. That's because the towels actually scrape off the bacteria. Journal of Applied Microbiology

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Reading this research paper made me think it was a commercial message written by the Dyson advertising department.

Yet... this images suggests that swine and gel can live in harmony.
Yet... this images suggests that swine and gel can live in harmony.Courtesy Ollie Crafoord
Duh, right? I mean, of course swine conquers gel. We've all known that since we were kids; rock breaks scissors, scissors cuts paper, paper wraps swine, swine beats gel, gel covers rock. We all know the rules of the game.

But now there's additional research to prove that swine beats gel.

A recent study found that disinfectant hand gels, with "enhanced antiviral activity" (say what?), didn't significantly reduce infection rates of rhinovirus (the cold) or A/H1N1 (swine flu) in the test group over a period of two and a half months.

Infection rates were reduced somewhat, but not to the expected extent. (Out of 100 person groups of regular hand sanitizers and non-hand sanitizers, 42 sanitizers got the cold and 12 got swine flu, compared to 52 and 15, respectively, infected in the control group.)

However, it's not necessarily the case that viruses are simply body-slamming antimicrobials in the octagon cage of your hands. The results suggest that aerosol transmission of the viruses might be more significant than hand-to-hand transmission—those sneaky swine flu viruses might be bypassing the gel altogether by, that's right, flying.

Perhaps we have to take anti-infection measures to the next level.


Not to freak y'all out, but did you know that germs are on everything you touch? Using a special powder called Glo Germ (get it here) you can actually see how germs spread from one thing to another. It will make you want to wash your hands more often. (And the CDC recommends washing your hands frequently. In fact, why don't you go wash up right now?)

Scrub 'em: Use soap and water, and wash for 20 seconds. That's about the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
Scrub 'em: Use soap and water, and wash for 20 seconds. That's about the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.Courtesy mitikusa

Goal: to observe how germs are spread
Age level:: 3 and above
Activity time: 2 - 5 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes

Materials needed:

  • Glo Germ powder
  • Toys or common household/school/office objects to "spike" with germs
  • UV lamp or detector box


  1. Sprinkle Glo Germ powder on your objects.
  2. Arrange them somewhere where others can handle them.
  3. Plug in UV lamp, but don't turn it on.

Encourage others to pick up and play with the objects. Ask them what they know about germs.

  • Do you know where microbes are found?
  • Do you know what a microbe/germ is?
  • Do you know what illnesses are caused by germs?
  • Do you know the best way to avoid getting sick because of germs?

After the discussion, tell them that, as part of an experiment, you've put "pretend" germs on one or some of the objects they may have touched today. Switch on the UV lamp: what glows?

Reinforce the fat that the Glo Germ powder is just to simulate germs. It won't make you sick. You can get rid of the germs by washing your hands. In fact, encourage your audience to wash their hands and then hold them under the UV light again.

(On the other hand, remember that not all germs are bad. Exposure to some germs is thought to protect people against asthma and allergies or colitis, and overuse of antibacterial products leads to antibiotic resistance and superbugs as well as potential damage to the environment.)

The flu and cold season is upon us, and with it the regular reminders to wash your hands. Check out this story – that tells you how many specific types of bacteria the average hand carries around at any particular time. And gals, you have even more reason to wash your hands than guys.


Wash up: According to a recent observational survey, men are nearly three times more likely not to wash their hands after going to the bathroom as women. Is that surprising?
Wash up: According to a recent observational survey, men are nearly three times more likely not to wash their hands after going to the bathroom as women. Is that surprising?
Okay guys, we’ve got a problem here. The hand-washing police have been keeping tabs on us and have found that one-third of us don’t wash our hands after going the bathroom. On the otherhand, so to speak, only 12 percent of women skip the sink when they’re leaving a bathroom.

The bathroom police is the Soap and Detergent Association, which released its new findings in a report made public on Monday. And it slams men pretty hard. The same survey conducted two years ago showed that 25 percent of men didn’t wash their hand then.

The information is based on observations made last month of the behaviors of more than 6,000 people in public restrooms in four major U.S. cities.

Okay, so they really weren’t police officers, but the researchers conducting the study actually had people standing in public restrooms monitoring and recording the washing habits of the people who came through. And you thought you had a bad job.

Anyway, what’s really interesting is to compare the numbers to what people say of their washing habits in telephone interviews. In a Harris Interactive survey, 92 percent of respondents said that they wash after every trip to the bathroom.

Back to the observational survey, here are stats from each of the bathrooms visited:

• Atlanta's Turner Field baseball stadium again was the worst. Only 57 percent of guys there washed up, compared to 95 percent of women.

• New York was Second City to Chicago in cleanliness. In restrooms at the Windy City's Shedd Aquarium and Museum of Science and Industry, 81 percent of men and women combined washed their hands, compared to 79 percent at the Big Apple's Penn and Grand Central train stations.

• At San Francisco's Ferry Terminal Farmers Market, 62.5 percent of men lathered up. Women did better, with 84 percent.

Frequent hand washing is the single best thing people can do to avoid getting sick, from colds and the flu to germs lurking in food, doctors say. But we all know that, right? So why don’t we wash up better?


Staphylococcus aureus: There are some other photos of staph out there, but they all seem to involve a ton of pus.     (Photo by Estherase on
Staphylococcus aureus: There are some other photos of staph out there, but they all seem to involve a ton of pus. (Photo by Estherase on Esther Simpson
Hand washing, nose picking, good hygiene, we all know about this stuff right? Do it, do it in the sanitary privacy of your bathroom, and do it, respectively. Dirty hands spread germs, and germs spread infections – we know this, and, consequently, are as clean as a nation of whistles. Or are we?

I recently catalogued ten everyday and seemingly harmless activities that I do, and then researched their hygienic ups and downs. I urge you to follow along, see which activities you do, and then tally up your hygiene score. I think you might be surprised…

1) Put dirty laundry in the washing machine.
2) Prepare a ham sandwich.
3) Give/receive a high-five.
4) Turn on a light switch.
5) Wash your hands.
6) Clean the cat box using only your fingers.
7) Touch a friend’s face.
8) Pet the dog.
9) Hold hands with a stranger.
10) Become hospitalized.

Okay. Now, being honest, figure out your score using this key:
1) –3, 2) –1, 3) –6, 4) –5, 5) +10, 6) –15, 7) –9, 8) –4, 9) –11, 10) –31.

And, remember, if you’ve washed your hands more than once, you get points for each time. Also, if you have, say, cleaned more than one cat box with just your fingers, take away fifteen points for each time.

So… how did you score? Uh huh, I thought so.

The score for the last item, becoming hospitalized, may be something of a surprise to you. However, a recent article in The New York Times has highlighted the huge difference that increased sanitary conditions makes in cutting infection rates. Simple things like more frequent hand washing, glove wearing, and better isolating patients known to carry certain pathogens has cut infection rates in hospitals as much as 78 percent.

It seems obvious enough, although some hospital administrators are hesitant to commit to change, fearing the increased costs associated with some procedures, and citing the fact that isolated patients often receive less attention from hospital staff, and are more likely to suffer from falls, bedsores, and increased stress.

Dealing with infections acquired in the hospital, on the other hand, can be dangerous and extremely expensive. One of the main culprits is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA can be carried into hospitals by patients who demonstrate no symptoms, and can be passed by unwashed hands. If MRSA gets into a wound, it can cause anything from a painful sore to a fatal infection. By screening patients as they enter care, though, MRSA has been all but eliminated in countries like The Netherlands and Finland. Some states in the US are required to test certain high-risk patients for bacterium like MRSA, but very few hospitals screen all incoming patients.

Should the government require hospitals to screen all patients for MRSA? It’s not cheap, but it would save lives and probably money in the long run.
And could you possible think of a better way to clean the litter box than my tried-and-true bare hands method? Honestly?