Friday, October 2, 2009

Are You Washing Your Hands Properly?

I know it is a silly question but you might be surprised at how many people are not. As I have posted before my whole family has been sick with the flu. I am actually still sick and am starting to get upset! Not only is it miserable but I am so behind on school, housework and of course blogging. Maybe if I had been a little more diligent in making sure my family and I were washing our hands properly this all could have been avoided. Lesson learned!

I recently had the chance to chat with Mike Kapalko, SCA Tissue’s Environmental & Tork Services Manager and he was able to share some great information with me. First of all, did you know that it is better to dry with a paper towel than an air dryer? I always used to think that an air dryer is better because it doesn't require the use of paper which helps save trees. However, when you use a paper towel you are creating friction that gets rid of 99% of germs.

I also learned that antibacterial soap isn't necessary, any old soap will do as long as you wash your hands long enough. Encourage your kids to wash as long as it takes to sing " Happy Birthday". That is something I have been trying to work on with my boys.

Did you know that a study was done at a daycare where they washed children’s hands every morning when they arrived and disinfected any area a parent may have touched and decreased illnesses by 50%. I know that the daycare that my boys attend disinfects everything very thoroughly. I was worried at first that it might be too much (worried they could weaken rather than strengthen their immune system) but after talking with Mike and after seeing how awful and long this flu made us I am thankful for any form of getting rid of germs!

Below is a great article with even more helpful information on proper handwashing to help you stay healthy this winter. Enjoy!

Washing Hands Properly Becomes Increasingly Important During the Flu Season

PHILADELPHIA, PA (September 14, 2009) – Countries around the world are trying to tackle the escalating H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic in different ways. Advice from all authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), remains the same: good hand hygiene, particularly in public places. Despite this, there are still too few people who know how to wash and dry their hands in the most hygienic way.

“Our hands touch 300 different surfaces every 30 minutes. And, according to the CDC, up to 40 percent of Americans could contract the H1N1 virus through 2010. So properly washing and, equally important, effectively drying your hands is a simple way of dramatically decreasing your risk of being infected,” says Mike Kapalko, SCA Tissue’s Environmental & Tork Services Manager. “As a leader in hygienic solutions, Tork provides businesses and consumers with handwashing resources such as posters and educational videos through our website.”

The WHO estimates that two billion people[1], one third of the world’s population, could be infected before the end of the pandemic and North American college and university campuses have begun to report hundreds, and in one case thousands, of potential H1N1 cases over the past two weeks.

Viruses can survive on common surfaces like faucet or door handles for up to 72 hours, and considering that we use our hands for almost everything, good hand hygiene is essential to minimize the spread.

Dry Hands Help Reduce the Risk
Damp hands spread 1,000 times more germs than dry hands[2]. It is therefore as important to dry your hands as it is to wash them carefully with soap and warm water. When away from home, a single-use paper towel ensures that hands can be completely dried and are virtually germ free.

Paper towels also help the cleaning itself, due to generated friction. Up to 99 percent of the germs can be removed by drying your hands properly[3]. The drier your hands, the safer you will be.

Paper Towels Are the Key to Hygienic Hands
Getting from 90 percent dry to nearly 100 percent dry is extremely important. A single-use paper towel is the most effective option, as it only takes a few seconds to dry your hands completely and removes close to 100% of germs in hand drying. A warm air dryer takes an average of 43 seconds to get your hands only 95 percent dry.

A 2008 University of Westminster study shows paper towels are the only option that actually reduces the number of bacteria on your hands (by up to 77%). Many people believe incorrectly that hot air drying is the most hygienic way to dry your hands, but compared to single use paper towels, warm air dryers can actually increase the bacteria on your hands by up to 254 percent[4].

Paper towels are also the preferred way of drying hands in public washrooms, as demonstrated in a recent Harris Interactive Consumer Poll, comparing user’s attitudes toward different hand-drying solutions. A clear majority (55%) prefer single-use paper towels to jet air dryers (25%), warm and hot air dryers (16%) and cloth or linen towels (1%)[5].

Advice from Tork on taking care of your hands during the flu season

When should you wash your hands?

Good hand hygiene is especially important during flu seasons and when you are in public places. Wash your hands often and dry them thoroughly. If available, use an instant hand sanitizer as a supplement between washes. To prevent infection and cross-contamination you should wash your hands:
• After arriving at work.
• Before meals or eating any food.
• After visiting the restroom.
• After sneezing.
• Before preparing food.
• Before and after visiting a sick person.
• After arriving home.
• When hands are visibly dirty.

After washing and drying your hands:
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Avoid close contact such as shaking hands and kissing people on the cheek. Especially with people who are sick.
• Cough or sneeze against your sleeve or in a paper tissue that you throw in a waste basket.

The best way to wash and dry your hands

Hands are full of surfaces that can be difficult to reach, which means that many people tend to forget certain parts. When you go to a public washroom, washing your hands properly should take about as long as singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

1. Wet hands with clean warm water.
2. Apply soap.
3. Rub hands together vigorously and scrub all surfaces for 20 seconds. Remember to wash both of your thumbs as thumbs are quite often skipped in the handwashing process!
4. Make sure to wash under nails, watches and jewelry since millions of germs gather there.
5. Rinse with clean water.
6. Dry hands with a single-use paper towel until they are completely dry.
7. Use the paper towel to avoid contact with frequently touched surfaces while leaving the washroom, such as the faucet and door handles.
8. Since hands are to be washed frequently, use mild and gentle soaps.

Tork has created an informational video on proper handwashing.
Check it out at to view.


  1. I have a little niece who loves washing her hands. She sings the ABC's as loud as she can to make sure that it's long enough. Sometimes she even throws in a little jazzy version like the one on Super Why. So cute! And so glad she washes her hands. :)

  2. I am a hand washing FANATIC!! I'm teaching my daughter to sing the ABC's (like the comment above) to make sure she washes long enough too. Thanks for the post. The more people who know how to wash their hands correctly the better!! :)


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