October 15 is Global Handwashing Day and a we consider the benefits or hand washing compared to using hand sanitisers in respect of combating the spread of germs.

Quick question. Do you wash your hands before eating?

It’s a recommended practise to wash hands before eating.

A recent study took swabs from the hands of family members prior to eating breakfast and dinner and the results were grim. Simply washing hands prior to eating can remove 80% of  germs that reside on hands.

How long should I wash my hands for?

20 seconds is the optimum time for an effective hand wash. Wash your hands making sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails, rinse and then dry fully before leaving the washroom.

Handwashing Stats and Facts

Some of these might seem common sense, but this list will highlight things even those who consider themselves ‘hygienic’ might miss.

  • We touch hundreds of surfaces daily and exposes us to hundreds of thousands of germs
  • Only 5% of people wash and dry their hands correctly
  • People often fail  to wash their hands properly and for inadequate duration
  • Some people do not use soap and incorrectly believe water will do the job!
  • 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch
  • Correct hand washing can reduce diarrhea rates  by 40%
  • Respiratory infections can be reduced by 20% through correct hand washing
  • Poor hand hygiene contributes to approximately 50% of all sickness outbreaks.
  • Only 20% of people wash their hands before preparing food
  • Less than half of us wash our hands before eating food
  • 7% of women do not wash their hands at all after using the bathroom
  • 15% of men do not wash their hands at all after using the bathroom
  • Bacteria hides beneath fingertips and requires cleaning, often overlooked
  • The number of bacteria on our fingertips doubles after using the bathroom
  • Most people wash the palms of their hands and do not wash the backs and between fingers
  • Damp hands are 1,000x more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands
  • Only about 20% of people dry their hands after washing them.
  • There is fecal matter on 10% of credit cards, 14% of banknotes and 16% of cellphones
  • Approximately 39% of people don’t wash their hands after sneezing, coughing or after blowing their nose.
  • Lift buttons and switches in public areas harbor 22% more bacteria than toilet seats.
  • Reminder signs are successful in encouraging more handwashing.
  • Dirty sinks result in less handwashing.
  • Handwashing rates are higher in the mornings than evenings

Hand Washing with ‘Soap’ and Water is more effective than Hand Sanitisers in most cases

A recent study, ahead of the upcoming winter period when risk of flu is more prevalent, a scientist on BBC Breakfast TV stated that simple hand washing with warm water and soap alongside proper drying is the best way to keep germs at bay and reduce the risk of spreading germs.

Whilst hand sanitisers do ‘kill germs’ and are ideal in cases where clean water, soap and hand drying facilities are not available, if you have a choice of both, always choose the trusty soap and water solution.

When Hand Sanitiser is an alternative

In public places, especially hospitals, clinics and doctors surgeries, hand sanitisers are widely used and provide an effective hygiene solution. Health care professionals are required to keep their hands spotlessly clean and using hand sanitisers can assist in this.

Regular hand washing during the day is required and soap and water washing is not always feasible.

Hand Sanitiser Fact

Sanitisers will kill germs but will not remove dirt.

Some people have advocated that you should wash your hands after every four or five uses of alcohol-based hand rub. In reality, if your hands feel ‘grubby’ or are visibly dirty, you should wash them with soap and water.

How do Hand Sanitisers Kill Germs

Alcohol kills most germs on contact without causing serious harm to the skin tissue, which makes it an effective active ingredient for hand sanitisers. Ethanol and isopropanol are antiseptics that kill germs by dissolving their essential proteins.

Are Hand Sanitisers effective for all Germs?

No. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers do not kill germs such as MRSA, Salmonella, e. Coli or Norovirus.