The TV news loves to get us wound up about the impact of infectious diseases like the flu and the coronavirus, but rather than get fearful, wash your fricking hands!

You can spray Lysol all over the place and bathe in Purell sanitizer, and still not come close to the simple impact washing your hands has in combating viruses.

So what's the correct way? If you haven't heard by now, it's quite simple:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that best practices for hand washing include not only rinsing the hands with water, but also applying soap and scrubbing the palms, the back of the hands, between the fingers, and under the fingernails.

A person should scrub for at least 20 seconds before rinsing the soap and drying the hands with a clean towel.

However, Prof. Nicolaides notes that of the people who do wash their hands after using the restroom, many never apply soap and spend under 15 seconds on the procedure.


20 seconds is about the length of time it takes to sing the 'Happy Birthday' song or the 'Alphabet Song', but to be certain, I generally sing the entire 'Mama Mia' verse to Queen's 'Bohemain Rhapsody'.


...the researchers argue that if more people were to wash their hands frequently and correctly, it would significantly slow down the rate at which diseases are likely to spread.

Specifically, if 60% rather than 20% of air travelers maintained clean hands, it could slow down the spread of infections by almost 70%, according to the researchers.

Even increasing the number of people with clean hands by 10% could slow down the rate at which disease can spread by as much as 24%.

“Eliciting an increase in hand hygiene is a challenge, but new approaches in education, awareness, and social media […] have proven to be effective in hand washing engagement,” says Prof. Nicolaides.

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