The Hygiene Rules You Thought You Knew

December 7th, 2015
There’s more to it than “lather, rinse, repeat.”

You wash your hands when they’re dirty and cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. It’s not just doing those things regularly that matters, though, it’s doing them the right way. Here’s a refresher course on the steps you may be missing.

Hand washing. Rubbing your palms together while singing “Happy Birthday” twice isn’t going to cut it. According to the World Health Organization’s standards on hand washing, there’s a better way. Spend between 40 seconds and one minute at the sink, and follow these simple rules:

  • Don’t neglect the tops of your hands, in between your fingers, the tops of your fingers, your fingertips and your thumbs.
  • After applying soap, try using your palms to help scrub your fingertips: Place the fingertips of your right hand on your left palm, and rub them in a circular motion. Switch sides after several seconds.
  • Coughing and sneezing. When a cough or sneeze comes along and you don’t have a tissue handy, hold the crook of your elbow up to your mouth instead of your hands. It’s sometimes called “the vampire rule” as the motion is reminiscent of Dracula covering his face with his cape. The benefits? A new study from MIT shows that it’s not just fluid you’re containing. With every sneeze and cough, you actually emit a gas cloud that can carry germs even farther. Researchers say your arm is the best line of defense.
  • Contact lenses. Contacts come in many different forms in terms of how long you can wear them and how often you can dispose them. One universal rule: Always clean and store them in fresh solution. Topping off old solution in your case exposes your lenses to bacteria from previous wears.
  • Bath towels. You’re squeaky clean from your shower, so your towel is clean too, right? Not the case. A damp towel is ideal for growing mold and mildew, which thrive on damp surfaces. Between uses, air-dry your towel completely to keep spores at bay (in other words, get that towel off the floor and onto the rack!).
  • Toilet lids. Germs may be hiding in the same room you keep your toothbrush and toiletries. A recent study found that flushing with the lid up could spread bacteria through the air. Put the lid down with every flush to prevent airborne bacteria from landing where it isn’t wanted.