Hand-Washing Mistakes

Washing your hands – it sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world, right? After all, the importance of keeping your hands clean has been drilled into most of us since childhood; it should be the easiest thing in the world.

However, in the midst of a record-breaking and widespread flu outbreak across the US, the significance of taking proper precautions cannot be overestimated. That’s why the OpenWorks team has compiled a quick list of the most common mistakes to make when washing your hands. Not only will this remind you of the most effective ways to keep your hands clean, it will help prevent the risk of infection from cold and flu viruses and other contagions.

  1. Not often enough
    If you’re only washing your hands every time you use the restroom, that may not be often enough. Think about how often you handle food, touch your face or hair, or surfaces in common areas – chances are you’re picking up bacteria more often than you think. A good rule of thumb to abide by is to (obviously) wash your hands after you use the restroom, before and after you eat, and after you’ve touched germy ‘hot spots’ in public areas.
  2. Not long enough
    How long on average does it take you to wash your hands? Whatever it is, it’s probably not long enough. Opinion varies, but general consensus rests on a good 15-20 seconds of washing! This may sound like a stretch, but consider that you should be cleaning under your nails, between your fingers, and the tops of your hands during this time as opposed to simply rinsing them under water.
  3. Not drying your hands
    Making sure that your hands are completely dry after you’ve washed them is an essential part of the entire hand-washing process. If you’re the type that simply shakes your hands dry, know that you could be unintentionally contributing to the spread of bacteria. Drying your hands after washing them removes any bacteria or microbes that would otherwise still be lingering. Using paper towels to dry your hands, or, even better, a hands-free dryer is a key component of preventing the spread of germs.
  4. Using antibacterial soap with water
    No, really! While it might sound completely counterintuitive, the antibacterial soaps you wash your hands with are no more effective than your standard soap and water. In addition to carrying some nasty chemicals which can be a serious irritant for skin, they’ve also been linked to the rise in drug-resistant bacteria. If that wasn’t enough, check out these consumer updates from the FDA on the subject.
  5. Touching surfaces
    Germ-ridden services are everywhere in a work space, but there are particular hot spots to avoid. Restroom counters and faucets are a big no, and should be avoided where possible. The breakroom is also a notorious hot spot for germs. Unless you’re prepared to wash your hands after touching every public or commonly used surface, steer clear of touching them when you can.


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