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Hand Washing: It's More than Just the Soap

The ruling of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for antibacterial soap manufacturers to remove 19 active ingredients from their products has sparked a discussion about the effects of antibacterial soaps and whether or not they should be used. 

Nancy Bond, RN, infection preventionist at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, knows the importance of keeping clean. “There are two sides to the argument, supported by science, about antibacterials,” she said. “It comes down to personal choice in the home setting.”

“There are many bacteria, viruses and fungi that can make you sick,” said Bond. “Even casual contact can transfer bacteria from an infected surface to you. The most important thing you can do to keep you and your family healthy is to wash often and reduce the amount of bacteria in your home by cleaning.”

Bond shared these tips for keeping squeaky clean:

  1. Pick a soap, any soap. Whether regular or antibacterial, the most important thing is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds many times throughout the day (kids can sing the ABCs or Happy Birthday to time themselves). The friction is what removes the bacteria and germs.

  2. Wash often. Washing hands is especially important after being outside the home (think of the grimy debit card pin pad at the grocery store), going to the bathroom (E. coli and Salmonella are normal bacteria that live in all human feces), and before eating or cooking (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from food poisoning in the U.S. each year, many of which could be prevented by hand washing and properly cooking/storing food).

  3. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an excellent choice when you can’t use soap and water. The brand doesn’t matter, just make sure it’s at least 62 percent alcohol.

  4. Keep your skin intact so germs and bacteria can’t enter. Use a moisturizer regularly, especially if you use a lot of hand sanitizer.