We all know how to wash our hands—or do we? Here’s how to keep hands germ-free, moisturized, and ready for…well, the next wash.
It’s easy to take our poor hands for granted. They do so much for us every day, and yet taking care of them isn’t always first (or second, or third) on our list of priorities. So let’s get right down to the great big subject of the moment when it comes to hands: washing them. We don’t need to tell you that hand washing is important. But after the 10,000th wash, we all start to cut a few corners here and there; a 2013 study observed over 3,700 people in public restrooms and showed that up to 95% of people were washing their hands improperly (yikes!). So what is the “right” way to wash your hands—both for maximum germ-fighting and minimum irritation? We’re so glad you asked! Here, the step-by-step, in glorious detail:
- Wet hands before anything else. When your hands are wet, they’re better able to absorb the soap that comes next (spoiler alert!), which helps scrub those germs and bacteria away. Make sure you turn the water off before your next step (conservation!)
- Lather up. This is not the time to be stingy with the soap; one or two full pumps of liquid soap will give you enough to work with (the surfactants in soap help lift dirt, oils, and microbes from skin). No need to seek out antibacterial soaps; studies have shown that regular soap does just as good a job washing microbes away, and antibacterial soap might actually do more harm than good. Look for gentle soap formulas that are made without sulfates, which can potentially irritate or dry out hands; our family-friendly Hand Wash is not only sulfate-free, it’s infused with plant-derived hydrating ingredients to help balance skin’s moisture levels.
- Keep on lathering (no, seriously, keep going). Once you’ve applied your hand wash of choice, get ready to wash and sing for 20 seconds, whether in your head or out loud. If rattling through “Happy Birthday” twice seems like a nightmare by this point (and it is), we’re fans of the 20 second chorus of Beyoncé’s “Love On Top.” And if you’re helping a reluctant toddler or younger child to wash, try singing this two or three times (to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”):
Still got a little one who isn’t having this whole 20 seconds thing? Turn to Jimmy Fallon for help.
- Hit every spot. Don’t forget to scrub often-missed areas that can harbor germs: under the fingernails, around the thumbs, between the fingers, and in the creases of your palms. Bonus points if you scrub down your wrists, too.
- Rinse with water. Target for cold or lukewarm water (hotter water hasn’t been shown to be any better at washing off microbes). Too hot, and you’ll run the risk of drying out your hands even more than you need to—and dry hands can actually create cracks in skin, which increase the risk of infections. Plus the hotter the water, the more energy it takes to heat it, and the less eco-friendly it is.
- Dry off. This one seems obvious, but there’s actual science behind making sure your hands are actually dry, not damp: as it turns out, bacteria are more easily spread through wet hands than dry ones. Okay, great, but how to dry? In your own home, easy-peasy: dry thoroughly on a hand towel (hopefully a frequently laundered one), and done. If you’re in a public space (remember public spaces?), things get a touch more complicated. Some studies suggest that electric hot air hand dryers where you rub your hands together may actually bring bacteria to the surface of your hands; high-speed jet electric dryers where no rubbing is required may be the better choice. Paper towels are another very safe route to take—albeit a less environmentally friendly one. But whatever you do, don’t dry your hands on your less-than-clean jeans and undo all your hard hand-washing work!
- Moisturize! Once your hands are really and truly dry, finish with a small amount of hand lotion to replenish any moisture lost during the washing process. Pipette Hand Lotion is a lightweight, non-sticky formula made with ultra-moisturizing, sugarcane-derived squalane for all-day hydration.
Okay, so you’ve reached the end of washing your hands (….for now!)—but hand health doesn’t end there. The CDC recommends hand-washing as the best and most effective way to combat the spread of germs, but there are plenty of times when washing up simply isn’t an option (neighborhood walks, grocery store runs, and so on). That’s when hand sanitizer comes into play. 60% alcohol is the minimum to effectively kill germs; Pipette Hand Sanitizer is 65% USP grade ethyl alcohol for a little extra security. Alcohol is inherently drying, there’s no way around it—which is why we bolster our formula with squalane and glycerin to keep hands soft and moisturized. Apply a generous amount to palms—the size of a half dollar for adults, or a pea-sized amount for kids old enough to use it—and massage it in until skin feels dry.
And of course: don’t forget to give cuticles some love! Our favorite baby product hack is to apply a little Baby Balm to nails and cuticles right before bedtime. The ultra-rich, calming formula sinks in while you sleep so you wake up to smooth, soft hands come morning. Who needs manicures, anyway?