Healthy Handwashing


A recent article published by WebMD reported 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch. Good handwashing, then, is still one of the best ways to avoid getting sick.

We all know we’re supposed to wash our hands, right? But how often do we skip it?

In 2013, researchers at Michigan State University conducted an undercover study to see how many people actually washed their hands before leaving a public bathroom. What they found was … kind of gross. While only 7 percent of women and 15 percent of men skipped washing their hands all together, a whopping 95 percent of people didn’t wash their hands properly. Which, as it turns out, can be as bad as skipping it all together.

Washing hands is still the best way to prevent the spread of germs. And soap and warm water is still the most effective method. But soap ingredients, time spent washing and even the amount of soap you use play an important role in effectiveness.

Exactly how long do we need to scrub? How much soap should we use? And what should we do if soap or water aren’t available when we need it?

6 Tips for Healthy Hand Washing

1. Keep it simple, use soap.
Soap and clean water are the best ingredients.

2. Don’t rush it.
The most common mistake is washing and rinsing too quickly. Spend 20 seconds rubbing your hands together, about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday, twice.

3. Keep clean hands clean!
A paper towel is the perfect solution. Turn off the faucet, open the door, then toss the towel.

4. Ditch the Triclosan. A common ingredient found in many anti-bacterial products, triclosan exhibits a number of worrisome characteristics and actually doesn’t do a better job at cleaning than soap and water. Triclosan has been shown to disrupt hormones and can encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. As a result of its overuse, over three-quarters of people sampled by the Centers for Disease Control had residues in their body.

5. If soap and water aren’t available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers make a good substitute. The CDC recommends using hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent alcohol as the next best alternative to soap and water.

6. Skip regular use of hand sanitizers.
The CDC says these may not be as effective at killing certain types of germs, they’re more likely to irritate the skin and they may actually cause germs to develop resistance to the sanitizer itself. Eek!

But are there soaps that are healthy, affordable, easy to use, look nice in the bathroom, and also also skip the toxic ingredients? The simple answer is yes.

Of the 1,700+ bar soaps rated by GoodGuide, eight received a score 8 or higher, and a few dozen received a score of 7 or higher. See the complete bar soaps reviews and ratings.

If you prefer liquid hand soaps, check out the 1,000+ liquid soaps we’ve reviewed and rated by GoodGuide.

With thousands of hand soaps rated by GoodGuide, you may wonder why only a few receive an overall score of eight or higher. There are many contributing factors at play here. In order to assign a score to any product in the personal care category, like hand soap,

  • First, we count the number of ingredients in each product that are categorized as low, medium or high health concerns.
  • Next, we factor in negative information (like regulatory restrictions) along with positive information (like third-party certifications) to assign product scores. Review the complete rating methodology of the Personal Care category

You can see the complete methodology for our personal care product ratings here.

Washing hands is a really simple, very important part of your personal hygiene routine. Adopting a healthier routine can play a major role in promoting and protecting your health.

5 Steps to Proper Hand-Washing
If using soap and water for hand-washing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following five steps to prevent the spread of colds:

1. Wet your hands with clean water — warm, if available — and apply soap.
2. Lather by rubbing hands together; be sure to cover all surfaces.
3. Continue rubbing hands together for 15 to 20 seconds — sing “Happy Birthday” twice in your head.
4. Thoroughly rinse hands under running water to ensure removal of residual germs.
5. Use paper towels or an air dryer to dry hands and then, if possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.

About GoodGuide Team

GoodGuide's mission is to provide consumers with the information they need to make better shopping decisions. The team behind creating this blog content includes GoodGuide's science and product teams, industry experts, and guest bloggers.
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