Proper hand washing technique: how to wash your hands properly

New products like antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers clamor for our attention, but plain old soap and water is still a good way to clean your hands, reports the January 2007 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

In studies, washing hands with soap and water for 15 seconds (about the time it takes to sing one chorus of "Happy Birthday to You") reduces bacterial counts by about 90%. But even people who are conscientious about washing their hands often make the mistake of not drying them properly. Wet hands are more likely to spread germs than dry ones.

Today, almost half of the hand soaps on the market have an antibacterial additive. The big question has been whether use of antibacterial soaps will worsen the problem of antibiotic resistance. Even if antibiotic resistance weren't an issue, results from studies suggest that antibacterial soaps available to consumers don't add much to hand hygiene. The findings are a useful reminder that antibacterial soaps aren't the all-purpose germ fighters that many people think they are.

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