Handwashing How-To and How-Not-To

And now we come to that time of year where students and teachers dive headlong into those overflowing human petri dishes we call “schools”.

My kids have brought home some real winners through the years. Colds, flus, and stomach bugs, of course.  But then there’s the phalanx of conjunctivitis, strep throat, inexplicable fevers, Hand-Foot-Mouth and Fifth Disease. (Yes, that’s what it’s called.  I’m not kidding.  Look it up.)  Nothing deadly, but certainly unpleasant.

To rehash some old news here, let me remind you that frequent handwashing with regular soap and water is the single best defense against the spread of germs.  The mundane act of handwashing has been making headlines lately because the FDA just banned the ubiquitous ingredient Triclosan in antibacterial soaps. Which takes us back to my point:

Frequent handwashing with regular soap and water is the single best defense against the spread of germs.


So, when you find your precious littles are catching every passing bug (“But Mommy, I thought you wanted us to share!”) – and before you dose them with latest miracle vitamin – check out how often and how well they are washing their hands.

Four Handwashing Fumbles

The H-2-Onlyimg_3852

Otherwise known as the no-soap wash.  I say “wash” in the loosest sense of the word because this is, in fact, a rinse.  Water alone does not grab germs, and it cannot penetrate grease. The only effect it might possibly have is to knock the dirt off by force.


The Flash Wash


This is the “blink and you might miss it” wash where soap touches the hands for the briefest of moments before getting rinsed off.  Soap needs a few moments to do its job – grabbing dirt, grime, and germs – and it must touch all parts of the hand to do so.


The Finger Free


This one is a toddler specialty, where soap gets rubbed around the palms and maybe the backs of the hands, but not the all-important fingers.  Our fingertips touch surfaces, friends, food and our own mouths, noses, and eyes the most.  Handwashing must include a thorough scrub of the fingers, fingertips, and under the fingernails.  According to the FDA , “The fingernails and surrounding areas are often the most contaminated parts of the hand.


The Why Bother


Even if you wash your hands well, but then touch the faucet, the paper towel lever, the dryer button, the lightswitch, or the door handle, you might as well have licked your hands clean.  Instead, do all this with the back of your hand, your less dominant hand, your least used fingers, your elbow, or with a paper towel in between. Be creative.

In situations with cloth towels, the towel is only as clean as everyone else who has used it. Is it trustworthy?

Here’s a snazzy summary put together by Rachel, one of our awesome graphic designers:


You can even click here for a PRINTABLE  PDF to post at every sink!

Review this with yourself, with your live-withs, your kids, your friends, your friends’ kids, and your kids’ friends.

This may sound like a hassle, but think of all the time, money, and peace of mind you’ll preserve in not missing work, visiting the doctor, caring for the sick, getting sick yourself, cleaning the house extra, completing missed classwork and missed work work.

I can already hear the cherubic voices, “But that’s NO FUN!!” Yeah, well, being sick is even less fun.



4 thoughts on “Handwashing How-To and How-Not-To

  1. I highly recommend the World Health Organization poster that shows you how to wash your hands. All you have do is search online for hand washing guide. I custom printed it by enlarging it to 140% and it now fills an 8.5″ by 11″ paper. The pictures are very specific as to how to hold and move your hands to get a thorough washing. Even if children get it only half right it will probably be so much better than what they are doing now.

  2. Thank you! And it wouldn’t hurt to make sure all of the adults are washing their hands properly too.

  3. When my girls were little, we turned hand washing into a game. We had bubble contests to see who could make the most bubbles and who could get the bubbles to cover every part of their hands. As they grew up, I often heard other moms comment on how well my girls washed their hands while at their friends’ houses on play dates. I’m not above some good old fashioned mama manipulation!

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