punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

All Visitors of This Site Must Wash Their Hands

Dedicated to Dr. Andy...

Okay, lesson time. I have been working in a large office since 1996, and I have noticed that certain people just don't get it about washing their hands. Maybe it's a "dirty little piggy boy" thing, but I have heard from women that it's just as bad in the women's rest rooms. Here is how I have broken it down where I have worked for the last 8 years, by offhandedly observing people in the public rest room:

50% - Don't even go near the sink (ew ... they're touching things!)
30% - Wash hands by getting hands wet, drying them (I call these people "Cargo Cult washers")
10% - Wash hands with drop of soap
5% - Wash hands with some soap
2% - Wash hands, with lot of soap, for more than 10 seconds (that's me)
1% - Wash hands up to elbows for over a minute (sorry, that's a bit obsessive)
1% - Also brush their teeth

As for "Cargo Cult Washers," what's funny is they have the idea down, but some don't even get their hands wet in many cases. At that point, pee on your hands is slightly better as an antibacterial agent, but still ... ewwwww! [shudder] The other day, I actually saw a guy who turned on the water, waved his hands at the faucet like he was casting a spell and turned the water off. Did he think this worked? Was he doing it to "make an impression" because I was at the sink? I wanted to ask, "Dude, why bother?" but I'm a coward, so I just shook my head in disbelief when he wasn't looking.

I went to public elementary school in Northern Virginia, and they told us to wash our hands since kindergarten. So did my mother. In fact, all my childhood, from various points, I heard "wash your hands." So now I am an adult, and wash my hands after each time I got to the restroom, before eating, or after I touch some potentially bacteria-laden stuff, like the cat box, preparing meats, or handling pet food. But I am almost in the minority. Where did these people's education go wrong?

I touch computers all day. Keyboards and mice especially. I share these with a ton of other people who do NOT wash their hands, and it grosses me out. I hate the fact that I might be touching the bacteria-laden booger residue or toddler plasma* of a dozen other people who have touched that doorknob.

Why are so many people not washing their hands? It's common sense, especially after you use the bathroom. It's not hard. Maybe they have been doing it all wrong, like they hate cold water, or don't know how to dry their hands, or thinks it takes too long or something. It's not hard at all! Here's a basic step procedure I stole from a kid's site, but added my own notes:

1. Turn on faucet. Use warm water when you wash your hands, because it's better at killing the germs, but also is kind of soothing. But don't burn yourself with water that is too hot, because that's just dumb.
2. Squirt out about a tablespoon full of soap into one hand, or use a bar of soap long enough to cover you hands. Antibacterial soaps are great, but regular soap is just as good, because all soaps suspends germs off the skin surface, allowing the them to be rinsed down the drain. You are also cleaning off any dirt, oils, and other residue that germs can stick to and thrive until you wash again.
3. Rub soap vigorously for about 10-15 seconds. Get between the fingers, under the nails, up to the wrists. Past the wrists is only necessary if you are a doctor or vet or someone working with patients. We have one guy in our office who washes up to the elbows, and I think, "What, are you going to operate?" I think he learned all his handwashing secrets from episodes of M*A*S*H.
4. Rinse soap off. Then dry with a clean towel, or one of those hot air things, until you hands are dry. No one likes touching a wet doorknob, or shaking a damp hand. Drying also removes a few more germs that still clung on through the scrubbing.

Now your hands are all neat and clean. You won't pass germs, and if the soap was antibacterial, germs won't survive on your hands for the next hour or so. You will get less colds, less gunk on your mousepad, and your keyboard won't look like it's been dusted with greasy soot.

*Todder plasma: this was a term I invented back in retail, when I had to clean display cases. Often, toddlers have sticky hands, and when they stick them to smooth glass surfaces, often they peel away with a Velcro-like tear, leaving behind a cloudy handprint of a combination of saliva, mucous, and anything they ate in the last few hours. It's REALLY hard to clean off with Windex, let me tell you

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000401.html
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