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5 Benefits of Proper Handwashing

5 Benefits of Proper Handwashing

News about the spread of germs change now and then, but the effectiveness of correct and regular handwashing has stood the test of time. In this article, we’ll talk about the science and benefits of proper handwashing.

The Science of Washing Our Hands

How can 20 seconds of thoroughly washing our hands with soap and water stop the spread of disease-causing germs? According to experts, handwashing can destroy viruses and bacteria because of 3 vital elements:

Soap and Water

Germs like viruses need an intact lipid (fat) layer to stay active and cause an infection. The soap contains surfactants — substances that can deactivate the virus by destroying its fatty envelope.

Think of how it’s so much easier to get rid of grease on the plates when we use dishwashing soap instead of just washing them with water. That’s similar to how soap helps get rid of germs.

Rubbing for 20 Seconds

The act of rubbing creates friction, which helps “lift” dirt and germs off the skin. According to studies, waiting 20 seconds is long enough to remove transmittable germs.

Rinsing and Drying

After thoroughly washing all areas of your hands with water and soap, don’t forget to rinse under running water. Rinsing under running water helps remove the lifted dirt and microbes.

Finally, dry your hands thoroughly with a clean towel or disposable tissues. Doctors emphasize that germs are easier to transmit from wet hands than dry hands.

Germs: They Are Everywhere!

benefits of proper handwashing

Now, here’s another crucial rule: to obtain proper handwashing benefits, we need to make it a habit.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reiterates that germs are everywhere.

We get them from unknowingly touching feces when changing nappies or handling raw meat, which has invisible animal poop in them.

We can also touch contaminated surfaces or objects.

To prevent transmitting germs from person to person, we need to wash your hands:

  • Before and after eating or preparing meals
  • Before and after going to the bathroom
  • After cleaning the house or touching possibly contaminated objects
  • After blowing your nose or sneezing
  • Before touching our face
  • Before and after visiting a sick friend or family
  • After going outside

5 Benefits of Proper and Regular Handwashing

After learning about the science of washing our hands, let’s talk about its benefits. Below are some of the benefits of regular and proper handwashing:

1. It protects us from illnesses

The simple act of washing our hands helps protect us from many illnesses like sore eyes (pink eye), hand-foot-mouth disease, the flu, common cold, diarrhea, pneumonia, and salmonella infection.

2. It prevents us from missing out on work or school

Taking a break from school or work sounds relaxing, but not when we’re sick.

And if we get sick—let’s say, with diarrhea, flu, or sore eyes—we probably need to take a few days off to rest and recover. Missing a few days means losing income or work backlogs, which can add to our stress levels.

3. It reduces medical bills

Not all people get hospitalized because of diarrhea or flu, but contracting pneumonia is a different story. Remember: getting sick means we probably need to spend money on medicines, doctors’ fees, or hospitalization. The excellent news is handwashing can reduce medical bills by preventing various diseases.

4. It helps fight antibiotic resistance

One of the benefits of proper handwashing is it helps fight antibiotic resistance.

The CDC elaborates that washing our hands can prevent 30% of diarrheal diseases, and 20% of respiratory infections, health issues where antibiotics are “unnecessarily” prescribed.

Not using antibiotics when they are not required helps fight against antibiotic resistance—a phenomenon where the germs no longer respond to antibiotic medicines the way they do before.

5. It protects other people

When we wash our hands, we prevent transmitting disease-causing germs to other people. This means handwashing helps protect our friends and family from illnesses.

It is especially beneficial for vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and people with existing medical conditions.

Learn more about General Hygiene here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 09
Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, M.D.