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  • Bill Walker

“Hey Kids: WASH YOUR HANDS!” Surprising New Research on Hand Washing


Hand washing is universally touted by health professionals as a major requirement for avoiding physical illness. Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses — from the common cold to more serious infections, including:

  • Meningitis

  • Bronchiolitis

  • Flu

  • Hepatitis A

  • Stomach Virus/Diarrhea

This is a very dangerous list of illnesses!

The truth is hand washing works!

A Surprising New Finding

Many parents have long believed that the hotter the water the more germs that are killed. This turns out to be FALSE. Water Temperature Does NOT Appear to Make a Difference.

Researchers from Rutgers University placed a strain of the E. coli virus on the hands of a group of volunteers. The volunteers then had soap applied to their hands & washed their hands under different water temperatures – from cold to hot.

The Findings

“Whether you use 60-degree Fahrenheit or 100-degree Fahrenheit temperature — or something in the middle — none of those temperatures had a significantly different effect than the other. They were all effective in removing bacteria from the hand,” the lead researcher reported.

What DOES Kill Germs?

Two actions are necessary to remove the most germs from your child’s hands:

  • Use Soap

  • Wash hands for at least 10-15 seconds.

The Best Germ Killing ACTION PLAN:

Here's what the science says:

1. Sing 'Happy Birthday'

The song takes about 12-15 seconds, which is the amount of time people should wash their hands.

2. Lather with soap

Water alone won't remove enough germs – use soap, if available. You do NOT need to use antibacterial soap. It does little or nothing to make the soap work better, according to the FDA.

3. Dry with a paper towel or clean hand towel

The act of physically rubbing with a towel actually removes some extra bacteria that the washing does not remove.

4. Use the water temp you like

Still feel like you need hot water to have clean hands? Go ahead. Do what makes you comfortable. Just make sure to wash your hands. If you prefer colder water, use it.

5. Moisturize

People who frequently wash or wash with hot water might experience cracked and broken skin, which harbors bacteria. This dry skin also makes it harder for people to remove bacteria, so lotion can be helpful.

Bottom Line:

Based on the research from Rutgers University the temp of the water does not make a difference in killing germs.

What DOES matter is to use soap and to wash for at least 12-15 seconds.

Reference: Journal of Food Protection, V. 80, #6 (June, 2017)


© 2017 by IFP