Do Those Around You A Favor By Washing Your Hands The Right Way

Spend any amount of time in a public restroom and you’ll encounter some incredibly fast hand-washers. A typical ritual includes an optional dab of soap, a millisecond-long sprinkle of water and a cursory wipe on a paper towel. You can not only set a good example for others but actually get the nastiness off your hands and refuse to spread it to everything you touch by making it a point to wash your hands effectively.

The Mayo Clinic recommends lathering up and rubbing your hands together vigorously for 20 seconds. To do a good job you’ve got to wash not only your palms and fingers, but the backs of your hands, between your fingers and underneath your nails.

Washing your hands well is especially important after you’ve taking care of business in the bathroom, as well as before you handle food or eat. Clean hands are also crucial when you’re feeling under the weather or around sick people.

Hand-washing: Do’s and don’ts [Mayo Clinic]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Haplo9000 says:

    You know, I really don’t come to Consumerist for lectures on how to wash my hands, no matter how much I may need it.

  2. FredKlein says:

    A Marine and a Navy guy are in a latrine side by side taking a leak.

    The Navy guy notices that the Marine is starting to walk out without washing his hands, and says: “In the Navy, we are taught to wash our hands after urinating.”

    The Marine says: “In the Marines, we are taught not to pee on our fingers.”

    • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

      The 1950’s called. Please make sure to wash that joke before using it in public.

    • quail says:

      While the Navy guy and the Marine are having their discussion….

      An Army guy at the next stall claims with a shudder, “My the water is cold.” A Ranger then replies, “It’s deep too.”

    • FredKlein says:

      Replying to myself to say I originally heard it as a three-person joke:

      A, B and C are at the urinals. A finishes up, and proceeds to the sink and, using plenty of hot water and a lot of soap, says “at [A place], they teach us the value of cleanliness”.
      B finishes, and goes to the sink. Using just a trickle of water and a small, but adequate, amount of soap, says “At [B place], they teach us the value of conservation”.
      C finishes and heads for the door. “At [C place] they teach us how not to pee on our fingers.”

  3. dolemite says:

    I get more done in those 10 seconds than most people do in 30 seconds.

  4. Dirtylicious says:

    just sing the abc song while you wash.

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      When your world is full of strange arrangements,
      And gravity won’t pull you through
      You know you’re missing out on something
      Well that something depends on you
      All I’m saying, it takes a lot to love you
      All I’m doing, you know it’s true …

      do I have to do the spoken word part too?

    • Martha Gail says:

      I do “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Each section of the song is a different part of my hands. I also lightly scratch the palms of each soapy hand to get soap under my nails.

  5. Cat says:

    Phil, are you my Mommy?

  6. mauispiderweb says:

    I think they need to rename this site … Kindergartenist: Simple Lessons for Everyday Life.

    Up next: Why You Should Always Say “Please” and “Thank You”

  7. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Make fun all you want, but a few of the ladies I work with don’t wash their hands after they use the bathroom. I know this because I’ve been in the stall next door, and they’ve done their business, flushed, and then just walked out of the bathroom.

    They proceed to touch the bathroom door handle, the railing up the steps to our office, the door at the top of the steps, and they touch the coffee pots, creamer, sugar, etc. along the way.

    Sadly, there are adults in this world who don’t wash their hands, cough and sneeze without covering their mouths, and are content to spread germs around.

    • Cat says:

      FWIW, the kind of “ladies” that don’t wash their hands after taking a dump would probably never read Consumerist anyway.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      And this is why humans have such amazing immune systems.

    • Errr... says:

      I’m amazed by how many women do not wash their hands after using the facilities! Especially gross are the women who don’t wash their hands, yet spend 10 minutes adjusting their eye makeup, fixing their hair, putting more lipstick on (with their nasty hands).

    • NewsMuncher says:

      I hope you mean that people should cough into their sleeves and not on their hands right before touching stuff or shaking your hand.

      • yurei avalon says:

        I would rather someone cough into their hand and then go wash or use sanitizer on them than just cough all over everything or into the air, hands down. I cringe every time I go to a store and have to share air with all these children people have in tow that are coughing all over the place or sneezing without making any attempt to cover. Parents really need to get back to teaching things like this again :/

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        Yes, I did mean this. A few of my coworkers just cough and sneeze into the air, and not into a tissue or into their elbows, and make no attempt at all to not spray germs all over the place. They’re disgusting.

    • bluline says:

      They also don’t wash their hands before touching and rearranging their clothing, so even if they wash, the effort will be wasted the next time they touch any part of their clothing that was touched while in the restroom.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        This. Let’s say I pull down my down, poop, and wipe up, and flush. What is the very next thing you do? You pull up your pants and tighten your belt.

        So no matter how much you wash your hands, your pants and belt will just make them dirty again.

  8. theduckay says:

    Turn the page, wash your hands…turn the page, wash your hands…

  9. Cat says:

    I’ve figured it out.

    Today is President’s Day. All posts today will be by Phil.

    Related story: My employer finally posted our 2012 holiday schedule a week ago. Guess what holiday we used to get that we don’t get anymore?

    • missy070203 says:

      same here….. no more 3day weekend for presidents day….booooo

    • chizu says:

      Today was supposed to be a paid-holiday for the office. But since we went from full-time to part-time last week, I had to come into work today to clock in my 8 hours… *sighs* :( Not that I think working is a bad thing… It’s still… :( *sighs*

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      That would make sense for Groundhog Day, but I’m not seeing the connection to any presidents.

  10. Straspey says:

    Some health organization actually did an on-site study about this subject a few years ago, by placing “observers” in public restrooms who kept track of the number of people who washed their hands before leaving the room.

    They ran the test in a few major cities and population areas with higher counts of public facilities – and then they published their findings, ranking each city.

    The city which came in dead last – with the fewest people who would wash their hands – was…New York.

    Not only do I wash my hands every time – but I then use a clean paper towel on the door handle when exiting.

    Also – the next time you get an itch in your eye and have the urge to scratch it by digging in with your finger…stop and ask yourself, “Where was the last place I put my hands?”

    I always carry a pack of tissues for this very reason – and also why the very first thing I do when I walk into my home is wash my hands.

    • Chmeeee says:

      All that and I bet that you get sick just as often as I do.

      • Straspey says:

        Wrong – I am very wary about catching colds.

        In fact, if somebody sits down next to me on the subway or bus, and is sniffling, blubbering, rubbing their nose, etc – I simply get up and walk away…even if it means I have to stand for the remainder of my trip.

        I rarely catch colds anymore.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          How do you have any idea how often Chmeeee gets sick?

        • theduckay says:

          Well I don’t take any of the precautions you do, and I rarely get sick either (haven’t had so much as a cold in 2 years). I feel like all this stuff people do to prevent “germs” doesn’t really do anything at all and is a huge waste of time and effort. But I guess if it makes you feel like you’re doing something, go for it.

        • Chmeeee says:

          I would bet that ANYTHING you touch in that subway is dirtier than the door handle in most bathrooms.

          • Straspey says:

            And I would totally agree with you on that one.

            If you think about it – taking into account the billions of infectious spores spilling between subway riders every day – along with the horrible sanitary conditions and large rat population – it’s a wonder we don’t have a full-scale outbreak of the Bubonic Plague here.

            • Spaghettius! says:

              Actually, I credit the NYC subway system with building my immunity. I used to be one of those flimsy little sniffly kids who got sick all the time. Then I started commuting to school/work on those crowded rush hour trains… and I think it sort of made me immune to everything.
              I’m not advocating licking the poles, but how do you make yourself heartier without introducing new germs into your body for it to imprint and reject? The trains mostly have cold/flu viruses. bathrooms have the extra nasty stuff, IMO.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I agree. It’s nice having a normal immune system. It always seems like those who are OCD about hand sanitizer get sick just as much as the rest of us.

    • StarKillerX says:

      “Not only do I wash my hands every time – but I then use a clean paper towel on the door handle when exiting.”

      Yeah, I picked up that habit when working at a local hospital.

      • ClemsonEE says:

        Same, and it has made me very conscious of bastards who design bathroom doors that open inward.

        • NewsMuncher says:


          It’s people who cough on their hands that get to me.

          And after coming down with cryptosporidium while traveling to visit my future sister in law and having to leave early because we were starting to feel really sick—only to discover on the several-hour drive back that our bodies were about to spend an entire week getting as absolutely empty as possible. It was a bonding experience as we weakly camped out on the floor on a quilt and watched Netflix.

          Probably because someone at a restaurant didn’t properly wash after going to the restroom.

    • dolemite says:

      I don’t use a paper towel on the handle, but I do use my pinky to grab it, since I never use that.

  11. menty666 says:

    Assuming you’re in a less than up to date bathroom, you do your business, touch the lever to turn on the water, use soap then turn them off, leaving water on the lever.

    When you first touched the lever you deposited some of the nastiness you were trying to wash off, now you’ve added water to help give a good growth medium. The next person by does the same, and on and on.

    That tip below about using a paper towel to open the door is a good one, unless you also had to touch the wet lever on a dispenser to get a paper towel.

    I hate sanitizer gels, but after using a bathroom is probably the best time to use one.

  12. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    Sam decided he had had enough. The sounds of troops stomping past and the cadence of their commanders played an ominous beat in his head. This wasn’t just the ‘ragtag bunch of mercs’ he had been led to believe they were. This was a professional outfit and training ground for terrorist chefs.

    He was sure he wasn’t making it out of the compound alive. The car he had hid a couple miles away may as well have been on the moon. Between him and it were stationed almost a hundred men, not to mention gnarl toothed German Shepherds and a perimeter surrounded by rows of gleaming razor wire. No one had yet noticed that he was no longer in his cell, the dead prison guard now acting as replacement inmate. Sam figured he had about 10 minutes before anyone returned to question him, and learn the corpse’s secret.

    He stood over the sink, vigorously washing the blood from his hands from moving the guard. He chuckled when he noticed there was no soap or hot water. He held on to the secret recipe he had lifted from the commander’s desk earlier. Looking out through the doorway security portal, he soon realized his only chance would be to try the clich√©d act of dressing as the guard, and walking out. He found a razor and gave himself a quick cold shave and slicked back his hair. He surprisingly felt fresher than he had in weeks. Time was quickly running out. He slipped on the loose fitting uniform, checked the sidearm to ensure it was working, and laced up the boots. He pulled the hat down on his head, hopefully obscuring the large red bruise on his forehead, another gift from the guard. Knowing that people tend to ignore you if you look like you belong and have a purpose, he grabbed a clipboard off the wall. With a deep breath, he opened the small hut’s door and stepped out into the cold sunlight. With a racing heart contradicting his calm demeanor, he surveyed his surroundings, and began to make a plan of escape.

  13. snowtires says:

    What does this have to do with the Consumerist? This isn’t Lifehacker.

  14. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Next up on The Consumerist, “Do Those Around You A Favor By Wiping Your Bum With Toilet Paper.”

  15. msbask says:

    I hate to ask, but has anyone ever done a study about how much pee or poop is on someone’s hands after they “do their business”?

    [ I actually wash my hands after using the bathroom simply because I figure it’s good to wash your hands a few times a day and that’s as good a time as any. ]

    However, does the average person actually have pee and poop on their hands after they go to the bathroom? If so, isn’t their pee and poop then on the knob of the bathroom stall, the soap dispenser AND the faucets?

    • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

      There was a post about poop a few weeks ago and someone commented saying that the toilet paper is covered in fecal matter, and no one should use it on any part of their body. I now think about that whenever I’m in a bathroom.
      If your toothbrush gets covered in fecal matter from flushing, the toilet paper would as well.

      • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

        You should not be flushing poop with your toothbrush.

        Side note: I no longer want you in my house.

      • regis-s says:

        Yeah, read somewhere that half the bathroom is covered in it if you leave the toilet seat up when you flush.

  16. Mr_D says:

    When I visited Japan, I noticed there rarely was soap provided in the restrooms.

    Also, what good is an immune system if you never use it?

  17. regis-s says:

    No kidding. You’d think after two days off there would be a backlog of Best Buy, Telco, or big banking stories to post.

    Since they brought it up though, what I don’t understand are the guys that wash their hands before they take a piss but not after.

    • regis-s says:

      That was supposed to be a reply to Haplo9000’s first post. Don’t know what happened there.

    • Not Given says:

      Maybe they regulary handle substances they don’t want touching them there? Jalapenos, maybe?

    • grimJack says:

      One guy I met did this, and a guy using the urinal asked him this very question. He answered, ” Why would I wanna touch my clean dick with my dirty hands?”

  18. cybrczch says:

    As much as I’d like to be derisive about this post, I just came from the bathroom at the company where I work, where I ended up flushing two of the toilets that some people didn’t bother to flush themselves after doing their duty (heh heh heh heh heh – duty).

  19. ahecht says:

    There really needs to be a way to philter out all these non-consumer stories from clogging up my RSS reader.

  20. quail says:

    I’m all for hand washing, but there’s a cadre of germaphobes out there who deserve any perceived nastiness that comes their way. They’re as much fun to be around as an addict on a 12 step program. They can’t stop talking about the horrid world of germs and how ‘your’ reluctance to follow their 80 step flow diagram to bathroom hygiene is promoting to the growth of skin eating bacteria.

    Try to be as clean as you want to be. But in the end their’s fecal bacteria all over the place. Unless you’re in a surgical theater or a clean room, you’re going to find it wherever you look.

  21. DrPizza says:

    90% of the people who say “my coworkers leave the bathroom without washing their hands!” also leave the bathroom without washing their hands. They might get them wet; they might rinse them off, they might in a few rare occasions even rub them back and forth under the water for 2 or 3 seconds. None of these actions constitute “washing your hands.” So, spare us the holier than though attitudes, please.

    I only wash my hands when I get shit on them. Like most Americans, I use about 10 times more toilet paper than is necessary so that getting shit on them is a remote possibility at best. If anything, I should wash my hands BEFORE touching my private parts. My private parts are washed in the morning, then covered with clean clothing, keeping them free of contamination until I touch them while going to the bathroom.

  22. tooluser says:

    And while we’re here:

    Y’all need to get more fiber into your diets.

  23. Cactus Wren says:

    Tedious and decidedly past-their-sell-by-date jokes aside, WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER TOUCHING YOUR GENITALS.

  24. La Flama Blanca says:

    I’ve found a number of places, including offices I’ve worked in have decided to eschew hot water to be green (save cash). My hands never quite feel clean in a cold water wash.

  25. La Flama Blanca says:

    I’ve found a number of places, including offices I’ve worked in have decided to eschew hot water to be green (save cash). My hands never quite feel clean in a cold water wash.