What You Didn’t Know About Washing Your Hands

Banner with text "Household antibacterial soaps often contain a harmful pesticide called triclosan" with person washing hand in background.

There’s a good reason reminders about hand washing start showing up in the month before school resumes. “Washing hands,” according to the Center for Disease Control, “prevents illnesses and spread of infections to others.” The website KidsHealth puts it this way: “Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses — from the common cold to more serious infections, such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, the flu, hepatitis A, and many types of diarrhea.”

Once kids are back in school and sharing nearly everything in the classroom, germs and infections can be transferred to objects other students touch, then taken home and spread among families who can proceed to take the sharing to work. It’s no surprise the start of school signals the time when we all re-enter the virus loop.

But, it’s later in the school year — when chilly, winter weather ushers in the flu and common cold — that hand-washing becomes especially important.

 

What About Antibacterial Soap?

Keeping families safe is a strong impulse, one that manufacturers and marketers pay close attention to. It’s at the heart of the industry push behind antibacterial soap. Their approach is simple – if you really want to keep your family safe, you should want a soap that’s made to kill bacteria.

The problem with this approach is antibacterial soap doesn’t work and over the past 40+ years has introduced an ingredient into our homes and water supplies – triclosan –  that the FDA considers a pesticide. In fact, the state of Minnesota banned it in 2014.

Despite industry efforts to change the point of hand-washing, the last thing any of us should want on our skin is an ingredient strong enough to kill the most harmful bacteria. The point of hand-washing is to simply remove dirt and germs from your hands.

 

When to Wash`

Hand-washing should be frequent. The website Activebeat.com urges us all to make hand-washing second nature, “because you never know when you’ve come into contact with germs. Wash your hands after using a tissue, taking the garbage out, before eating, during food preparations, after changing a diaper, after playing with pets.” Not only should hand-washing be frequent, it should be thorough – 20 seconds or more with warm water and soap, making sure to get between fingers and under fingernails, where germs like to hide.

 

The Other Half of Washing

Drying is equally as important as regular, thorough hand-washing. Bacteria can remain on hands after washing and wet hands spread those remaining bacteria far more easily than dry ones. The Mayo Clinic and the University of Bradford in the U.K. have both done studies on the best ways to dry hands after washing. The conclusions were that paper towels and air dryers are best. A further conclusion was that rubbing hands under an air dryer actually decreases the effectiveness of drying, likely bringing buried germs to the surface. In general, like washing, being thorough is essential to drying.

 

Bars of handmade, organic bar and liquid soap by Botanie.

 

Why Organic Soap?

Organic soap like ours is made to be both skin-compatible and antibacterial from the beginning — from the high-quality ingredients we use in production to our finished products you see in stores. Commercial soap is made cheaply and marketed heavily, with ingredients meant to minimize the stripping nature of its detergent base and to preserve it for the possibility of eight months in a warehouse.

None of these ingredients is included to be good to your skin. For many, switching to organic, skin-compatible soap means their skin isn’t automatically dry after bathing or showering. It can mean not having to use lotion right away and then several times during the day. Using soap made for the skin, rather than for sale, means it might be all you need to use.

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