Perhaps you’re washing your hands in a public restroom when you notice a fellow restroom visitor exit the stall. You may be astonished when that person then leaves the restroom without washing their hands. Or perhaps you, yourself, are tempted to skip lathering up at your bathroom sink after using the toilet. At such times, you may wonder how necessary it truly is to wash your hands after using the restroom. The truth is, the 30 seconds it takes to wet, scrub, and rinse your hands is well worth the time and energy invested.
7. Germs in Human Waste
According to the CDC, proper hand washing is the top tool for preventing the spread of germs and infections. Human waste carries germs that can infect and sicken humans. Examples of these germs include Salmonella, E. coli, and norovirus. The CDC has created an infographic to emphasize the disturbing fact that one gram of feces (the weight of one paper clip) can carry 1,000,000,000,000 germs. These germs can result in stomach illnesses and respiratory infections. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, sore throats, and hand-foot-mouth disease can all be caused by germs living in feces.
6. You Can Spread Germs to Food
When you skip washing your hands after using the restroom, you run the risk of transmitting germs from your hands to your food. When you grab an apple, reach into a bag of chips, or slice up a cucumber, you may transmit germs from your hands to your food. This is why you will find signs on restaurant restroom walls reminding employees that, by law, they must wash their hands before returning to work. Give your hands a thorough scrubbing after using the bathroom to prevent ingesting germs along with your next meal or snack.
5. You Can Spread Germs Via Objects
A person can also spread germs by touching objects with unclean hands. Unfortunately, germs can live on hard surfaces. The Cleveland Clinic reports that norovirus can live for weeks on a countertop, hand railing, or elevator button. Furthermore, handwashing is more effective than hand sanitizer at killing this virus. Additionally, even if you never touch your body while using the toilet, germs can be spread through the air during the toilet flushing process. This phenomenon, known as toilet plume, can spread particles of toilet water and germs into the air and onto nearby surfaces.
4. You Can Spread Germs to Yourself
Those around you aren’t the only ones at risk when you leave the bathroom with unclean hands. If you avoid washing your hands after using the restroom, you are in danger of infecting yourself with a bacterial or viral illness. When you leave germs on your hands and fingers, you risk transferring them to your eyes, nose, or mouth. Reach up to rub dust out of your eye, and you may come down with an eye infection. Wipe your mouth with a dirty hand, and you may deposit microscopic fecal germs onto your lips.
3. Proper Handwashing Technique
Using the proper handwashing technique isn’t complicated. First, wet your hands with running water. Then, apply soap and lather up your hands. Next, spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing your hands with the soapy lather. Be sure to scrub both the palms and the backs of your hands as well as between each finger. Singing the happy birthday song twice under your breath can help you determine when 20 seconds are up. Then, rinse the soap from your hands with running water before patting them dry with a clean towel.
2. Other Occasions to Wash Your Hands
The bathroom isn’t the only place where it is possible to pick up germs. Take care to wash your hands before and after handling food while cooking. Also, be sure to wash your hands before you begin eating. Use the proper handwashing technique to wash your hands after sneezing, blowing your nose, or coughing. If you are caring for a sick person, it is critical to wash your hands after attending to their needs. You should also wash your hands after taking out the garbage, feeding your pet, or treating a scrape or cut.
1. Would Hand Sanitizer Work as Well as Handwashing?
Hand sanitizers and hand wipes seem like convenient methods for cleaning germs from your hands. However, hand sanitizers may not kill viruses such as norovirus and C. difficile. If you find yourself in a remote area without access to running water, you may need to rely on hand sanitizers for cleansing your hands. Otherwise, it is wiser to stick to soap and water for cleaning your hands and preventing the spread of bathroom-associated germs.