"Indecision is like a stepchild: If he does not wash his hands, he is called dirty; if he does, he is wasting water."
That African proverb pretty well sums up many Americans' wild swing between hand sanitizer-hoarding and cavalier disregard for effective handwashing.
We figure that's because it's hard to know exactly how to effectively knock out the most dangerous germs.
So here's the latest hand-washing information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- You want to clean (rinse off microbes) and disinfect (kill them). Soap generally works by clearing germs off your hands, although it does rupture and kill some microbes. New evidence indicates that includes the COVID-19 virus.
- Washing your hands – top, bottom, between the fingers, on the wrist, and under the nails – with plain, sudsy soap removes around 99% of contaminants. That's as effective as antibacterial soaps. Soap is usually more effective than 60% alcohol hand sanitizer. Most people put sanitizer on dirty, greasy or damp hands, and don't let it dry before moving on.
- The 20-second hand-washing rule is spot-on. If you can't stand to sing a chorus of "Happy Birthday," check out the 20-second chorus of Prince's "Raspberry Beret" or Dolly Parton's "Jolene." Dr. Mike's favorite? Twenty seconds of Anita Franklin singing "Respect."