97% Of Us Apparently Aren't Washing Our Hands Correctly

child washing hands

Hand-washing seems pretty simple, right? We preach to our kids to wash their hands after they’ve played outside at the playground. We nag them to wash their hands as soon as they come home from school. We remind them to wash their hands before sitting down at the dinner able.

But guess what? Adults need to practice what they preach too. A recent study shows that 97% of us aren’t washing our hands correctly.

What? There is a “correct” way to wash your hands? Yes, and not doing it correctly can lead to contamination of food and surfaces and result in foodborne illness.

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The study from the US Department of Agriculture shows most consumers failed to wash their hands and rub with soap for 20 seconds. That's the amount of time recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that washing for shorter periods means fewer germs are removed.

What’s also important to note is how to dry your hands – numerous participants did not dry their hands with a clean towel.

The study involved 383 people in six test kitchen facilities in the metro Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina and in rural Smithfield, North Carolina, the USDA said. About half the time, participants spread bacteria to spice containers while preparing burgers, and 11% of the time, they spread bacteria to refrigerator handles.

child washing hands
Credit: iStock / jorgeantonio

So what's the right way to wash hands? The CDC has some tips on proper handwashing:

Step 1. Wet your hands with clean, running water.

Step 2: After wetting hands with water, turn off the tap and apply soap.

Step 3: Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of hands, between fingers, and under fingernails.

Step 4: Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. (Sing the alphabet song once or "Happy Birthday" twice.)

Step 5: Rinse hands well under clean, running water.

Step 6: Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry them.

So remember: always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw meat, poultry or eggs. Make sure you are washing for a full 20 seconds, and always dry your hands on a clean towel.

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