Antibacterial or not, handwashing is important

Handwashing is often overlooked for disease prevention.

Recently, antimicrobial soaps have come under the spotlight as to whether or not they are better than soaps that do not contain antibacterial ingredients. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a proposal to require manufacturers of antibacterial soaps to prove their soaps are safe and effective.

For the consumer, both antibacterial soap and soap without antibacterial ingredients are available on the market, but it’s necessary to look carefully on the labels to learn whether the product is an “antibacterial” soap. Antibacterial soaps are widely used by consumers; in my experience, it’s sometimes difficult to find soap that is not antibacterial.

The bottom line however, is that everyone, kids and adults need to wash their hands. Washing hands is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of germs which can cause illness or infection. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls handwashing a, “do it yourself vaccine.”

When should you wash your hands? The answer is often, but according to the CDC, especially at the following times:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

While most of us know that it is important to wash our hands, we don’t always do the best job. It doesn’t take long to properly cleanse your hands. Partnership for Food Safety Education recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap. Michigan State University Extension lists the five simple handwashing steps:

  1. Wet
  2. Lather
  3. Scrub
  4. Rinse
  5. Dry

Following these steps for 20 seconds is all it takes to help control germs in our environment, so add proper handwashing to your New Year’s resolutions!

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