For God knows what reason, you people don't like washing your hands. Maybe you don't feel you have 20 seconds to take away from your action packed day to devote to splashing around in a sink. Maybe you are a Dark Age peasant transported to our dimension through a wrinkle in time. Maybe you think there is something about your hands that makes them inherently cleaner than everyone else's. "Hey," you say, "I'm washing my hands right now!" "Hey," I say, "DON'T FUCKING LIE TO ME."
A recent study from Michigan State (via LiveScience) found that of 3,749 people observed using public toilets in one college town, only 198 (5.3%) washed their hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Actually, the CDC recommends 20 seconds.) Most people (38.2%) spent 5-8 seconds washing their hands, the equivalent of showing up to class but not participating. One in 10 (the cool kids with dirty hands) just walked out of the bathroom without doing anything.
Here is a brief list of things that do not count as "washing your hands."
1) Rinsing your hands with water and then drip drying them is not washing your hands.
Washing your hands without using soap is like vacuuming a rug without plugging in the cord: a curiously elaborate pantomime that is also ineffective. And yet, people love it! According to the Michigan State report, 23% of those observed wet their hands after using the bathroom, but didn't wash them. Why? Wetting your hands in the sink subjects you to the worst part of washing your hands (dealing with wet hands) while removing the step that makes the exercise worthwhile (killing germs). Hand wetters, it would seem, stagger around the Earth in search of a "magic water" that will clean their hands simply by being briefly rubbed on them. Little do they know, this "magic water" already exists. It is also known as "liquid soap" and it is usually stored right there next to the regular water. Use it to wash your hands.
2) Realizing that your hands look clean and then not washing them is not washing your hands.
About 10% of the people observed didn't even pretend to kinda wash their hands after evacuating feces and urine from their bodies in a restaurant bathroom. Now, we've all experienced the unbelievable speedball high that comes from realizing your hands look so clean that no one will even know you didn't wash them. But pause for a moment and consider: Are most people washing their hands because they are visibly covered in poop? You wash your hands to stop the spread of germs and bacteria invisible to the naked eye. So slow your roll and wash those hands.
3) Rubbing hand sanitizer into your visibly dirty hands is not washing your hands.
Sanitizer after using the bathroom is tricky because 1) it can be an effective tool for reducing germs on your hands, and 2) packaged in tiny clear bottles, it seems like a futuristic space tool that should be able to clean your hands better than you can. Officially, the CDC advocates the usage of the alcohol-based hand sanitizer—containing at least 60% alcohol—as a back up cleaning method if soap and water are not available, noting that santizers "do not eliminate all types of germs." They are also less effective on hands visibly covered in grime, just in case you are one of those people who thinks rubbing marinara sauce into your hands with melon-scented glitter hand sanitizer is the same thing as removing marinara sauce from your hands.
Every day is a birthday when you wash your hands: As mentioned above, lots of people try to wash their hands, but give up a few seconds in. The CDC advises humming the "Happy Birthday" song all the way through—twice—in order to help you while away the recommended 20 seconds. Use this time to insert your own name into the birthday song, since you probably never get to sing it with your name under normal birthday circumstances. (Unless your name is, say, Jessica and you were born in 1986, in which case you probably sing it constantly because all your friends are named Jessica except for Amanda.) Enjoy the feel of your name on your tongue, as you slide it into the birthday song.
You can also use this time to quiz yourself on your friends' birthdays. If you imagine singing the song to your friend Ian, you should also take a second to remind yourself that his birthday is March 2 and you missed it—oops—Happy Birthday, Ian.
If you're feeling industrious, use the hand washing window to create a new copyright-free birthday themed song. Maybe something like "Birthday, birthday — it's your birthday! Birthday, birthday — hey hey hey!" stretched out to twenty seconds.
Important: Like wetting your fingers with water or brushing your hands on your clothes, simply humming a birthday song does NOT make your hands clean. Do not skip the crucial step of hand washing.
Above all, remember: being touched by someone who hasn't washed their hands is gross. So learn to wash your hands, dum-dums.
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