More on Prevention – Or, How to Wash Your Hands

Disclaimer: nothing anywhere on this blog, or that I’ve written here, is intended as medical advice, or to substitute for medical advice, or intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease. It’s intended for educational, informational, or entertainment purposes only. Before making any changes to your health care regimen always consult your physician and appropriate qualified licensed health care professional. Do this everyday before getting out of bed in the morning, or you may very well suffer a horrible and painful death. Proceed to read at your own risk. You have been warned.

It turns out washing your hands properly is not quite as simple as some might think, so I thought I’d review some tips. First, as soon as you get home or into your workplace, wash your hands. I suppose everyone knows about vigorously rubbing your hands with soap, under running water, for a minimum of 20 seconds. Be sure to get in between your fingers (the webbing) and your nails. See here: https://youtu.be/IisgnbMfKvI

Now here’s a mistake people often make: they routinely touch a contaminated handle after washing their hands, which partly defeats the purpose. In other words, someone approaches a faucet with dirty hands, they touch the handle to turn it on, wash their hands, then touch the contaminated handle again to turn off the water, which means whatever crap was on the handle is now on their hands again. The correct thing to do is use a paper towel or disinfectant wipe to turn off the faucet.

Then drying your hands is another issue. With hand sanitizer, let the sanitizer dry before touching anything. With hand washing, if you dry your hands on a towel, you’re going to get whatever was on the towel on your hands. The blow dryers in public places are worse than useless – I read a study that showed they basically blow fecal matter all over your hands. Unfortunately, the best thing to do seems to be to use paper towels.

Oh, and those paper towels? If you keep them in your bathroom they’re probably contaminated with microscopic fecal material – it turns out when you flush the toilet, it sprays out an amount of fine droplets all over the place. Nice, eh? So keep them in a closed cabinet – something you don’t need your hands to open (like you can push or pull it open with your elbow or knee or something), or in a mostly-covered box like you see in public restrooms.

But how do you get out of the bathroom? Turn the doorknob, right? But did you disinfect the doorknob? Probably not; so once again, use a paper towel or disinfectant wipe to turn the knob or otherwise open the door.

Speaking of doorknobs, it’s a good idea to regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces – tables, kitchen counters, doorknobs, car door handles, steering wheels, refrigerator handles, and especially your phone, tablet, computer, and so on.

Now, note that disinfecting is not the same as cleaning. Clean first, then disinfect. What disinfectants can actually kill a flu virus or coronavirus? Bleach, 70% alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide (see https://www.consumerreports.org/cleaning/common-household-products-that-can-destroy-novel-coronavirus/).

Bleach is the harshest one and is quite toxic, but if you want to use it use 4 teaspoons per quart of water, and make a new solution every couple of days (it breaks down); also be aware bleach in the original bottle degrades over time (20% or so after six months), so be sure to use a bottle that’s not too old. Also bleach can corrode metal, including steel sinks and faucets, so be aware of that.

For myself, I stay away from bleach. Instead, I wipe the area down with 70% alcohol, let it dry, and then spray it with hydrogen peroxide. I leave the hydrogen peroxide for 8 minutes before drying it with a clean paper towel. See https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/disinfection-methods/chemical.html#Hydrogen for more.

I hope these tips have been helpful! Best of luck to us all in this trying time.

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