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Handwashing Secrets in the Age of COVID

Anyone else sick (only metaphorically I hope) of hearing the words “COVID-19” and “handwashing” by now? I work in a hospital laboratory for a living, so it’s not just because I make soap that I know a lot about how to prevent and deal with outbreaks like this.

I’d like to spread the facts here, not the sensationalism and germs. Because there’s a whole lot of both of the latter out there. Be the informed one taking lots of precautions, not the panicked one with the 12 cases of TP in their basement.

On that note, here’s a pop quiz. What is actually killing the germs when you clean your hands? And what is the best method of cleaning them? The answers below may surprise you.

me during flu season

A real, live hand washing experiment...

I remember in one of my microbiology labs in college, we had to group up and do our own experiment. One of our groups researched hand hygiene. They cultured a swab of three people’s unwashed hands and compared that to a second culture of

1. after rubbing their hands together vigorously,

2. after using hand sanitizer, and 

3. after washing their hands with soap and water.

Which action killed the most germs? Rubbing hands together! No joke, it’s the friction alone that kills germs the fastest. Handwashing was a close second, but hand sanitizer was a far off straggler.

Let’s talk about the results. In order for any antimicrobials you use to be effective, they have to stay on your skin for much longer than they do. Plus these agents are pretty toxic for you. And I think we can agree to eliminate the hand rubbing only method because the grime is still there, just dead. So, the take home message is – wash them hands! It doesn’t matter if it’s antimicrobial, bar, or liquid, just make sure you rub all surfaces vigorously for at least 30 seconds.

I recommend a moisturizing soap since frequent handwashing isn’t exactly notorious for optimal skin hydration. Let me set you up with the good stuff.

More ways to stay safe and healthy

Here are some more ways I recommend for staying healthy: don’t touch your face, stay home, and turn off the news when your mental health needs it!

Air-elbow-bumps from a six foot distance,


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