Handwashing is always extremely important but HOW you wash your hands, WHAT you use to clean them and WHAT type of sprays you apply between washing has an even bigger impact on keeping you healthy.
First, let's talk about why handwashing is so effective at reducing infections.
How soap works to keep your hands clean.
Many viruses are enveloped RNA viruses. Their structure has three main components: RNA encompassed in a capsid protein layer that is itself encompassed in a lipid envelope. That's good news because it means that it's very susceptible to regular soaps and detergents, which break up the lipid envelope inactivating the virus' ability to infect our cells. It's very much like how dish soap dissolves the grease from a dirty pot into the dishwater. By vigorously lathering your hands for a full 30-60 seconds with soap, you’re trapping viruses that might be on your hands, rendering them inactive, and then washing them down the drain when you rinse the soap from your hands.
A 2016 study looking at the effectiveness of hand-washing on influenza infection showed that proper handwashing (a full 30-60 seconds with soap and water) at prudent times (like before eating, after using the toilet, and after returning home from community activities) reduced the chances of getting the flu from 26% to 3%. That almost a 90% reduction in flu incidence from hand washing.
So, next question: Won't all this handwashing kill the protective microbiome on your skin?
Yes, but as long as you're steering clear of antibacterial hand soaps and hand sanitizers made with alcohol, it's not a huge effect. Studies have definitely shown disruption of the skin microbiome of antibacterial soaps (for example, ones containing benzalkonium chloride or triclocarban) that can take at least 2 weeks after discontinuing the antibacterial soap to recover. But studies looking at gentler hand soaps have shown much smaller perturbations of the skin microbiome.
The good news is that we can compromise by washing hands properly and prudently with natural hand soap and only reserve alcohol-based sanitizers when other options are not available.
How To Wash Your Hands Like A Surgeon
STEP 1: Remove ALL Rings - Honestly, this is the time to go ring free! Surgeons remove their rings before surgery to ensure a thorough and proper wash. Even a plain band cannot move completely to allow you to clean the skin underneath, where germs, bacteria, and viruses can hide. Gemstone rings are a breeding ground and hiding place for bacteria and viruses. Best to remove them during a crisis!
STEP 2: Assess Your Hand-Drying Options - Before you even start washing your hands, check to see if there is a lever or automatic option for your hand dryer. If there is a lever, push it to dispense the paper towels prior to washing your hands. Ensure you have a sufficient amount so you donʼt need to touch the lever after your hands have been washed. This will prevent contamination, post hand washing. If you forget to dispense the paper towel before washing (or someone steals yours) use your elbow to dispense the towel. If you have to touch the lever, REWASH your hands! Better to be safe than germy!
STEP 3: Roll Up Your Sleeves - Push your sleeves back fas far as you can. Youʼll want to include your wrists when washing your hands, as this area can be a place of contamination. ***It may be beneficial to remove your watch or fitness tracking device at least once a day to properly clean your wrists.
STEP 4: WASH - Turn water on and wet hands. Apply a generous amount of soap and in a downward position, begin to rigorously massage soap around hand and wrist area to create lather. (REMEMBER - Hands Down. Germs to the Ground)! While washing your wrists and hands, be sure you are moving and bending them back and forth to ensure you are cleaning between the creases of your palm and wrists. Wash between and around each finger (individually) and around your cuticles and under the nail bed. Wash for at least 1min, but I recommend 2 minutes - 20 seconds is NOT enough.
STEP 5: RINSE - Ensuring your hands are still in a downward position, place them under the water stream. Starting at the wrists, massage and start working down to rinse and remove the soap. Once all the soap is removed, give your hands a good shake to remove excess water. Avoid touching the sink.
STEP 6: DRY - Activate a hands-free drying option or remove the previously dispensed paper towel (from STEP 2). Place a paper towel in the center of your open hand and place your other hand on top. Using the paper towel as a glove, work wrist and hand back and forth to dry the hand thatʼs on top of the paper towel. Switch and complete the same steps for the hand thatʼs underneath. Keep a paper towel in a gloved position to use as a protective measure to turn off the water.
STEP 7: EXIT - If there isnʼt an automatic door or a push option, keep the paper towel in hand after shutting off the water to use as a protective strategy to open the door. Dispose of paper towel upon exit, if there is a trash can near the door. If there isnʼt a trash can, carry the paper towel with you out of the bathroom and dispose of it in the nearest trash can outside of the bathroom.
Step 8: Apply a moisturizing and protective balm to keep hands from becoming dry and cracked. Avoid water-based moisturizers that will dry your hands out more and leave them more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. Use a balm made with oils, beeswax and essential oils that are antimicrobial and antiviral. Look for thymol, ravensara, lavender, rosemary, peppermint, clove bud, geranium, tea tree, and eucalyptus.
When On-The-Go, avoid alcohol-based hand sanitizers. While they sound effective, over time, they compromise your immune system and destroy your skin microbiome. You are best using plant-powered protection for your hands.
Plants are subject to everything humans are- they are outside in pollution, radiation, acid rain, UV rays, and the elements all the time. They have to protect themselves from bugs, bacteria, viruses, mold, fungus and more.
Plants produce different types of aldehydes, phenolics, terpenes, and other antimicrobial and anti-viral compounds as their innate defense against pathogens.
These plant “essences” are the “essential oils’ that power all of the products I make. My products use plants to power your immune system- and during times like this, every bit counts.” Trina Felber, CEO Primal Life Organics
Colloidal silver benefits can be experienced as an anti-viral for viral infections including HIV/AIDS, pneumonia, herpes, shingles and warts. Colloidal silver suffocates the virus and can even reduce the activity of the HIV virus in AIDS patients.
There are also numerous anecdotal accounts of colloidal silver’s efficacy against the hepatitis C virus.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine, “silver nanoparticles are capable of reducing viral infectivity, probably by blocking the interaction of the virus within the cell.” This might depend on the size and zeta potential of the silver nanoparticles, as smaller-sized particles were able to inhibit the infectivity of the viruses that were analyzed.