Hand-washing: How to make sure it's effective

I thought I'd focus on starting a blog and bringing you some hopefully helpful and interesting information on well-being, aesthetics and, well, anything else that pops into my head.

So, where to start? Well, having had many infection control and hand-washing classes since my journey into nursing started back in 2006, I thought I'd pass on some tips that I've learnt in the hope that it might help to keep you and your families well.

So, why, when and how should we wash our hands?


Well, clearly we want to keep ourselves and our families healthy, but also we want to avoid spreading germs around the community. Hand washing has an interesting history, starting as something no-one did, to just something doctors did, to, in the early 20th century, something everyone did - and very stringently. But with with the introduction of better public health, antibiotics and vaccines, after the second world war people started being more lax about it. Nowadays, research published in 2009 in the American Journal of Infection Control states only 10% of men and 7% of women wash their hands before eating - a critical time for handwashing, and in 2015 a survey by Initial Washroom Hygiene of 100,000 people across Europe found that only 38% of men and 60% of women wash their hands after using the loo!

With no current cure for Covid-19 and a global pandemic upon us, we really can help to limit the spread of the disease with effective handwashing.

New published studies have shown the that the Covid-19 virus can last for up to:

  • 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces

  • 24-hours on cardboard and other natural fibres

  • 3 hours as droplet particles in the air

Covid-19 also sheds in faecal matter, so if people don't wash their hands after going to the loo they could contaminate anything they touch.

If we wash our hands often we'll avoid spreading germs when we touch things. It might sound simple, but not only are people lax about handwashing, according to research only 5% of people wash their hands correctly.


Well, a quick splash isn't going to do much good. You've got to rub, baby (friction is key to effective hand washing), and take your sweet time. 20 seconds actually. 20 seconds might seem like a long, dull amount of time when you're doing it, but you know what - this could be lifesaving, so take your time and sing away to yourself. However, did you know that, as well as taking your time, using the right technique is also really important.

Did you ever use those disclosing tablets at the dentist? You know the ones that turn your mouth pink and show where you've cleaned your teeth and where you've missed a bit? Well imagine you've got pink all over your hands and you've got to get it off. We have to rub the whole surface area of our hands, wrists and fingers with soap when we're handwashing.

Here's a picture from the NHS to show the seven steps of effective hand-washing:

Does it matter how hot the water is?

No - not really, although evidence suggests that if the water is warm we're more likely to spend longer washing our hands, rather than if it's too cold or too hot.

Should we scrub really hard?

No. We want to wash our hands effectively, but we don't wa