Reality check: Should you wash your hands in warm or cold water?

Jeannette Daniel
June 3, 2017

"We learned even washing for 10 seconds significantly removed bacteria from the hands", said Schaffner (who previous year proved that the five-second rule isn't real and food dropped on the floor isn't safe to eat, dang).

We all are aware that washing our hands can help us in preventing the spread of germs and getting ill.

"If you think about how many different things you do with your hands and how many different places they may visit in any given day - even if your hands look clean, they are covered in microorganisms or germs, some of which are harmless while others can carry infection and disease", says Culbert.

"If you're uncomfortable because the water is too hot or the water is too cold, then you're not going to do a good job", he says.

"This is important because the biggest public health need is to increase handwashing or hand sanitizing by foodservice workers and the public before eating, preparing food and after using the restroom", says Jim Arbogast, study co-author and vice president of hygiene sciences and public health advancements for GOJO.

More research is needed to see if the type of soap one uses also affects the outcome of cleanliness of the hands, the study says.

When the researchers analyzed the amounts of bacteria left on hands after washing, they found that water at all three temperatures worked equally well. In fact, the average length of time for hand washing was only six seconds, falling short of the newest study's advised 10 seconds.

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The team of researchers found that the temperature the volunteers washed their hands and the amount of soap they used did not make any difference when it came to how well their hands were cleansed of germs.

They were asked to wash their hands in 60-degree, 79-degree or 100-degree water temperatures using 0.5 ml, 1 ml or 2 ml volumes of soap.

The Rutgers study appears in the June 2017 issue of the Journal of Food Protection. Just make sure to wash your hands.

You don't need to risk scalding yourself in order to get clean hands.

"It's an interesting piece of information in the overall study of hand washing", he says.

The study also found that people who regularly used lotion on their hands had fewer bacteria after washing than those who didn't, possibly because moisturizing can help fix dry and damaged skin that's more hard to clean. "We are wasting energy to heat water to a level that is not necessary".

The study also found that using antibacterial soap is no better or worse than using normal soap when it comes to washing hands.

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