Wash your hands

This week has hearkened back to the days of yore (i.e. 2006) when I used to write a lot on this site. I can’t pretend I will keep up the pace, but I’m pleased to breathe some new life into my blog.

Speaking of breathing new life into things, this post is for those people who pee standing up. We need to talk about washing your hands after urinating (it goes without saying that you should wash your hands after defecating, so let’s take that as read).

There’s a joke that goes something like this:

Three men are in a public restroom. The first washes his hands and then takes ten sheets of paper towel to dry them. He tells the other two men that he likes to be effective. The second washes his hands and takes a single sheet of paper towel, using every inch of it to dry his hands. He tells the others that he likes to be efficient. The third man doesn’t wash his hands at all, and tells the others that he doesn’t pee on his hands.

I have some bad news for the third man, and that is: you’re dead wrong if you think washing your hands is about getting urine on your hands.

  1. Door handles in public areas (not just restrooms) are covered in fecal matter, because even if you think you’re marvellously clean, there is always someone who didn’t wash after defecating. More realistically, a small child may have picked their nose or scratched themselves, and touched every surface available to them.
  2. Splashback from toilets, troughs and urinals can launch fecal matter and urine into the air, and it’ll land on you.
  3. Flushing toilets, troughs and urinals can do exactly the same thing, and with more force. That may not be air you’re inhaling.
  4. Germs can migrate in your underwear during the day when you move around (sitting and standing), so your genitals can get fecal matter on them.

If you want to be especially grossed out, there’s a very good chance that your hands are dirtier than your genitals, especially if you touch other people or use things others have used. You should be washing your hands before and after you urinate.

No matter how hard their parents and caregivers try, kids are germ factories, so wash your hands if you come into contact with any surface that a child under the age of 12 has touched.

[Aside: you may have noticed that some public spaces have brass handles on their doors. Studies have shown that copper is anti-microbial for up to 95% of common germs. This is not an excuse not to wash your hands though.]

To wash your hands, you need to use soap and hot water, and rub the soap into your hands for at least twenty seconds. If you wear a wedding ring or other jewellery, you need to wash under there too.

While I know from experience that not all public facilities provide hot water, the soap is absolutely necessary. Soap works by breaking up the oils on your skin. The oil is what the germs stick to, so when you wash your hands with soap, the germs stick to the oil, which is then removed by friction and running water.

Once you’ve washed your hands, dry them thoroughly with paper towel (don’t use the air dryer please), and use a piece of paper towel to open the door, after which you can discard the paper towel. If there’s an accessibility button to open the door, press that with your elbow and save some paper towel.

Why shouldn’t you use an air dryer for your hands? Most machines take up to a minute to dry your hands completely (so that no germs that are floating around in the air stick to them), but most people don’t bother to wait that long. Getting your hands dry with paper towel is much faster and better in general.

Don’t think that rinsing your hands under a tap for three seconds is good enough. Again, this is not about urine, it’s about e.Coli. The friction caused by lathering up soap on your skin is what actually cleans them. For this reason, hand sanitizer is almost useless because people don’t use it properly.

PLEASE WASH YOUR HANDS.

Here’s a video that Royal Caribbean uses to remind cruise ship passengers and crew to wash our hands. It’s cute and the song is catchy.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.