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Please, Just Wash Your Hands

Illustration for article titled Please, Just Wash Your Hands
Photo: CDC (Unsplash)
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

There is a certain type of content I deliberately avoid but that, from time to time, I feel compelled to write. This is one of those times. I’m very sorry to do this to you but I need to tell you something you didn’t ask for my help with and that will, very likely, annoy you deeply: Wash your hands.

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I’m telling you this now because everyone is freaking out about coronavirus and doing things to soothe their freakouts like buying pounds of dried beans and elaborate face masks. And that’s fine! Buy away! But truly, if you want to do something to keep yourself healthy, generally and specifically in the face of this coronavirus business, get serious about being a person who washes their hands.

Now, you don’t need to listen to me on this one! You can listen to the multiple pediatricians I interviewed for an article about treating common childhood afflictions like pinkeye (shudder) and pinworm (double shudder) — all of who emphasized to me repeatedly (repeatedly!) that hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of highly communicable diseases.

Here’s something else they all said to me: It really doesn’t matter what kind of soap you use. It does not need to be antibacterial soap! But it sure can be if that makes you feel better about things.

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Do you like liquid soap? Fine!

Do you prefer that foam-y stuff? Fine!

Bar soap? Yup, fine!

(A soap dish would be nice if you’re going to go the bar soap route!)

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Does hot water make your hands feel dry? Use cold water! Is cold water too bracing for you? Use warm or hot water! Just. Wash. Your. Hands.

If you can’t get yourself to some soap and to some water, hand sanitizer is a good option. But literally—again, according to actual medical professionals—soap and water hand washing is better than using hand sanitizer. YUP!

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Also, most people aren’t washing their hands correctly when they’re doing it at all so let’s review basic hand washing protocol, per The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

But yes, I see you in the back, simultaneously folding your arms huffily while also shooting a hand into the air because you’d like to be called on so that you can tell me that coronavirus is NOT THE SAME as pinkeye. Tough noogies, buddy. I’m not calling on you because I already know that.

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Literally, the FIRST PIECE OF ADVICE on the World Health Organization’s website about protecting yourself from coronavirus is to wash your hands. The CDC also strongly recommends hand washing as an important preventative measure. And just, like, generally.

Okay there’s one other thing I want to say (as long as I’m here doing something I genuinely don’t enjoy doing, I’m going to just let ‘er rip with things I don’t normally do in my work, one of which is letting my mean flag fly): Hey you, Guy-o who doesn’t wash his hands after using the toilet. Yes you, sorry I don’t know your name but I can guess that it’s Thad.

ANYway. You should know this thing. A lot of people don’t like you and they’ve observed that you don’t wash your hands after you use the bathroom and they told everyone else about it and now a whole bunch of people are laughing at you — nope, not with you! AT YOU! — behind your back. Because you’re gross. Now you know!

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person

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