advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Best Way to Wash Your Hands?

What's the proper way to wash your hands? Is it best to use soap and water or antibacterial gels or soaps? How long should you wash to make sure your hands are clean?

A
Answer (Published 10/11/2012)

Washing your hands is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prevent the spread of infection. Although you're never going to get rid of all the germs you pick up as you go through the day, hand washing can help eliminate a lot of them. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) thinks the subject is so important that it created a special website devoted to proper hand washing. Many people - especially children - are careless about washing their hands, but the rules your mother probably taught you still apply and are endorsed by the CDC: be sure to wash your hands before you pick up anything to eat; before, during and after preparing food; after using the toilet, changing a baby's diaper, or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet; after you blow your nose or sneeze; and after touching garbage. In addition, be sure to wash your hands before and after caring for someone who is sick and after touching animal food or waste.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Your Whole Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing nutritional supplement recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor recommendation today.

Wash with soap and water. Work up a lather and scrub well; always clean the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Doing this right takes at least 20 seconds – CDC advises that humming "Happy Birthday" twice will help you gauge the right amount of time. Then, rinse well and dry your hands on a clean towel or under an air dryer.

I've never thought that antibacterial soaps and gels were necessary for home use, and I don't use them myself. Obviously, they're needed in nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare settings where there is a high risk of spreading infection from person to person. But there's no proof that the antibacterial soaps and washes marketed for home use serve any useful purpose.  In fact, they are likely to be counterproductive by accelerating the development of resistance to antibiotics.

The CDC agrees with me on this issue. If soap and water aren't available, the agency recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol but notes that while these products can quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands, they don't eliminate all types. The CDC also makes the point that hand sanitizers aren't effective when hands are visibly dirty.

Here's where you can read more about my views on antibacterial soaps and here's what you should know about the dangers that antibacterial products can pose.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here