According to a recent study in the Journal of Food Protection, the temperature of the water used for hand-washing doesn’t help to kill bacteria. Only boiling water — ouch! — kills bacteria. Water temperature does, however, affect how comfortable you are, and that can affect how long you wash your hands, which does have an impact.
The study found that 20 seconds of lathering was significantly better than 5 seconds of lathering. There wasn’t much difference between washing for 10 and 20 seconds. CDC recommends singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice, which lasts roughly 20 seconds, while lathering and washing. Lathering for more than 30 seconds doesn’t necessarily mean your hands will be cleaner. In fact, some studies suggest that it may spread bacteria to other surfaces.
Antimicrobial soaps are also not recommended. Normal soaps clean just as effectively while “antibacterial ingredients can do more harm than good over the long term,” according to Janet Woodcock of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Why? The use of too many antimicrobials among consumers can lead to the creation of pan-resistant bacteria, or bacteria that can’t be treated medically. If you were to ever get infected by pan-resistant bacteria, there might not yet be a cure.
For more hand-washing tips, check out Get Ready’s hand-washing page. There are great fact sheets to share with loved ones or even tape to the mirror of your employee restroom. Remember to wash your hands, use normal soap and water, and lather and rinse for 20 seconds!