Sensible Hand Washing for the Mildly Interested to the Paranoid

People. Wash your hands. Hopefully you already do this, but please wash your hands more often right now. My son Andrew works at Starbucks. They are required to wash their hands regularly as part of their normal shift, but at the moment, they are having to wash their hands at shorter, regular intervals. I think that’s good practice.

Wash your hands with regular soap for 20 seconds at a time. Don’t forget the backs! It’s good practice to work up a lather, rub it into your hands and then rinse off. Take the Whole. 20. Seconds. Soap will adhere to the germs and you’ll wash them away. 

After washing your hands, try to not touch your face or your cell phone for another 20 seconds. Think you can do it? I dare ya. I have become very much aware of how many times I touch my face every day.

You know how your hands get dry if you wash them a lot? Medical professionals have long suffered this from washing them before and after every patient, but you don’t have to. Commercial soaps have detergent in them and this is what leads to that dry, painful feeling. Those of us who have sensitive skin really have a tough time with hand washing and my hands actually hurt when I use a commercial soap. Antibacterial soaps are the worst!

Which leads me to say, please use soap. Please do not use dish detergent or a commercial soap with detergent ingredients. Using soap will help prevent the dryness. How do I know if the soap I’m buying is detergent or not, you ask? Read the label. Please read the label. The whole label. Know what you’re buying and putting on your body! All ingredients should be listed in descending order. Some ingredients you might see among the first few in a real bar of soap are:

Distilled water
Goat’s milk (or coconut milk, or almond milk, ALL the milk)
Olive oil
Saponified olive oil
Saponified (sunflower, coconut, palm, soybean) oil
Cocoa, mango or shea butter

These aren’t the only ingredients you might find, but it’s a good start. You may also see sodium hydroxide on the list, which is lye. If you have concerns about lye, please read my blog post titled If it doesn’t contain lye, it isn’t soap, dated July 4, 2019. If you see the word “saponified” among ingredients, that means the maker has not put sodium hydroxide in the list of ingredients and is demonstrating that the oils used in the bar have undergone the chemical reaction needed to create soap. While sodium hydroxide may be listed as an ingredient in the making of the soap, be assured that the final bar of soap contains no lye. The lye has undergone a chemical process and is no longer present. If the science aspect bothers you to think about it, just pretend it’s magic.

Lots of people wonder about hand sanitizer as a soap substitute. I can’t sell hand sanitizer since it’s considered an over the counter drug by the FDA here in the US, so I won’t talk much about it. I personally have a spray bottle of 70% rubbing alcohol into which I disperse a little tea tree oil. You’re much better off washing your hands than using hand sanitizer anyway, so use it only for emergency purposes. Like after wiping away your tears when you get to the grocery store to find that they’re out of toilet paper.

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Rinse. Repeat.

If you’d like to watch a helpful and (I think) very funny video about hand washing from Alton Brown, you can find it on YouTube at

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