Proper Handwashing

Posted by Heather
In life
6Apr 10

     This may sound like a strange topic for a Blog post, but it is something that has been bothering me for several years, and I just can’t keep silent about it any longer.  Do you remember when you were a little kid, and you’d go for dinner at a restaurant with your parents, and on your way out, you would notice the little bowl of mints near the entrance/exit ? ( you know – those tiny square ones that came in pink, green, white and yellow )  I always recall thinking how I’d like to grab a few of those on my way out the door, the idea obviously being that you’d just eaten, and it would make your breath fresh.  ( I just wanted them because they were candy, and were sweet, and we weren’t allowed many sweets at home. )

     I never did eat those mints, as I was warned that they’d done studies on the bacteria count on candies etc. sitting out for anyone to help themselves to in restaurants, and it was apparently quite scary.  The premise was that most men don’t wash their hands after using the men’s room, and therefore, they would transfer yucky stuff to the remaining candies as they reached for some.  The thought of that was more than enough to guarantee that I would never go for an unwrapped candy in a public place ever again.

     It’s funny – as a child, I mostly heard that it was men who rarely washed their hands after using the bathroom.  I’m sure there are a lot of men who don’t do it, but it wasn’t until I was a grown woman that I made some observations of my own regarding handwashing.

     After working in a couple of grocery stores, and seeing signs posted regarding the proper handwashing technique: you must wash your hands in warm or hot SOAPY water for a minimum of 20 seconds, I assumed that most people knew how to properly wash their hands.  Didn’t everbody’s Mom teach them, like mine did ?  I thought that was one of the most very basic things that we were all taught as children.  Well, either  there are a lot of uninformed people out there, or they have forgotten what they were taught, or they are just plain lazy.  It is not just men who don’t wash their hands.

     Having worked in several malls over the years, and having used public washrooms at least 5 days/ week, I have seen a lot of unsavoury things.  The thing that really disturbs me is how few women actually wash their hands.  I first noticed it a couple of years ago, and wondered if I was being silly.  I ” Googled ” proper handwashing, and read some very interesting articles about studies done where people went into public washrooms basically to observe what percentage of women truly washed their hands.  They found that if they made eye contact with other women, as they were washing their own hands, they were more likely to do the same.  If they pretended to ignore them, they could see out of their peripheral vision that most women didn’t bother.

     After reading all that stuff, I decided to make some of my own observations.  Like I said, I am generally in a public washrooms at least 5 days per week, so I literally see hundreds of women coming and going each week.  I hate to say it, but I would have to report that probably 60% of women come out of the stall, and walk out the door.  Maybe 30% turn on the tap for less than 10 seconds, ” rinse ” their hands with water ( not using soap, therefore not really doing any good ) then leave.  It is maybe 10% that actually seem to care enough to use warm/hot water, get a good lather going with the soap, and turn the germ – laden taps off with a paper towel, so as to not re-contaminate themselves.  These observations are incredibly disgusting, and I find it really hard to believe that I see this day in and day out.  Make no mistake – it is women from all walks of life – even the ” well-dressed ” and supposedly well-educated set.

     I just don’t get it.  This is just basic hygiene – this is how we keep clean, stay healthy, prevent ourselves and others from getting sick.  Why are there so many women that don’t wash their hands properly ? It is just so gross.

      I would love to hear some comments from anyone that works in the Health Care field – especially regarding the fact that SOAP is a necessary part of proper handwashing.  I have discussed this with a few people before – one even suggested to me that there is no proof that using soap is any better than just using water.   Unbelievable.

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