Due to recent events related to the Covid-19 virus there have been lots of recommendations provided by numerous Public Health Organizations including the CDC. One of the biggest ways you can help yourself is to wash your hands with soap and water.
Now this seems like an obvious solution but in fact many people may actually be doing it incorrectly. The CDC guide gives step by step instructions as to how to wash your hands correctly:

Follow these five steps every time 1.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

The first step where it mentions running water can be either warm or cold was interesting as you always think about washing your hands with warm water is more effective. Looking further into the research a study published on, “Water Temperature as a Factor in Hand Washing Efficacy”, actually did numerous studies on this very topic and found that there was no real statistical difference between washing your hands with hot or with cold water 2.

Step two is important as getting under your fingernails is often something that gets overlooked. Why is this so important? Numerous studies have shown that more microbes and organisms live there and the longer the fingernails are, both artificial and natural, the more microbes 3.

The third step drives home the point that many are not washing their hands long enough. The Happy Birthday song is a great way to pass the time and humming it twice in a row may even put a smile on your face 4.

Is the type of soap especially important? The very act of agitating your hands under running water even without the availability of soap counts for something, however having soap is better 5. One study observed that potentially harmful bacteria was present after no handwashing in 44% of samples while handwashing with water alone reduced the presence of bacteria to 23% and handwashing with plain soap and water reduced the presence of bacteria to 8% 5.
Antibacterial soap versus regular soap has been debated for years. Recent studies suggest that plain soaps are just as effective in killing bacteria as soaps containing antibacterial agents without the added risk of these bacteria adapting and becoming resistant 6.

Now armed with these tools hopefully your hand washing regimen will be even better.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html Opens in new window
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1471-5740.2002.00043.x Opens in new window
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14672227 Opens in new window
  4. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/healthy-living/your-health/diseases/benefits-hand-washing.html Opens in new window
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21318017 Opens in new window
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17683018 Opens in new window