The Most Common Hand Washing Mistakes that You might be Making

The Most Common Hand Washing Mistakes that You might be Making

Have you ever taken out time to ponder the proper way to wash hands? We bet you have not. Hand washing seems like an instinctual act and actually includes a lot of pitfalls

How you choose to wash hands can make a difference between flu prevention and catching this dreaded virus. As it is quite clear that the best way to prevent flu is to avoid the illness in the first place.

Here is how you can adopt a perfect hand washing technique to keep germs at distance. As a bonus, this method does not require you to use any toxic chemicals.

How does Hand washing Work?

We tend to wash our day every single day, mostly more than once. However, the science of this ac is not usually at the forefront of your brain. The basic purpose of washing hands is to get rid of pathogens which include viruses and bacteria.

Hand washing can minimize the spreading of influenza, respiratory infection, diarrhea, and a lot of other diseases. The uses of hand washing are so many that the ingrained habit of washing hands before and after eating and using the toilet can essentially save more lives than any medical intervention or vaccine.

hand washing mistakes

Hand washing can reduce the death rate due to diarrhea by almost 50 percent. It can also make a significant difference in reducing the deaths due to respiratory infection.

The efficacy of hand washing depends on the fact whether you utilize soap, the type of soap that you use, the water temperature, the duration of hand scrubbing, and the severity with which you scrub and dry your hands.

So, are you ready to learn about the most common hand washing mistakes that you make every day? Keep reading!

Common Hand Washing Mistakes

Did you think you know how to wash hands? It seems like you have been making some mistakes, leaving your hands laden with even more germs than before you decided to pick up the soap.

Here are some of the most common mistakes you might be making while washing hands.

  1. You use Anti-bacterial Soap

Some antibacterial soaps are a sham. As per the USFDA, no evidence has been sufficient to prove that the efficacy of antibacterial soaps is greater than that of the normal soaps.

A lot of families make the mistake of going for antibacterial soaps in order to keep their loved ones safe. Remember that these so-called germ-fighting agents. In fact, using them on a long-term basis can even lead to negative effects.

hand washing mistakes

The FDA has even taken action against some of the ingredients found in antibacterial soaps. Triclosan along with 18 other ingredients commonly found in an antibacterial soap was banned by the FDA in September 2016.

While this is an appreciable step, it does not mean the rest of the ingredients in the antibacterial soap are all safe. Some other chemicals including benzethonium chloride, benzalkonium chloride, and chloroxylenol are still present in a lot of OTC soaps


As per the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, the compound benzethonium chloride has fewer health hazards. However, there is a considerable about of data gap i.e. more research is required to render it safe or harmful.

Benzalkonium Chloride

Benzalkonium chloride is related to a lot of allergy problems. These problems may include severe irritation of skin and eyes. It also possesses a moderate level of risk for respiratory irritation.


Chloroxylenol is known to possess a risk for irritation in lungs, eyes, and skin. This antibiotic ingredient commonly found in soap is also said to contribute to antibiotic resistance. The more you expose yourself to antibacterial soap, the better they adapt.

RELATED: How To Deal With Soap Poisoning

So what must be done to overcome this problem?

Prefer natural soaps. A lot of soaps are present in the market which can be good for your health. Such soaps have oils as their main constituents, including almond, avocado, and walnut oils.

Whenever it is possible, always prefer an organic brand.

  1. You Use Bar Soaps

Pathogenic organisms can hide on a bar soap when you are using it to wash hands. Research suggests that these bacteria are unable to transfer to your hands, but more evidence is required to prove it.

Bacteria tend to live happily in a bar of soap, but following a few small techniques will provide you protection against these germs.

hand washing mistakes

What are these techniques?

Try to rinse the soap bar before lathering up as it will allow all the germs to wash away. Always prefer storing the soap out of the water and allow it to remain dry between uses.

This ensures that the soap does not provide a moist environment for the germs to grow. If you wash your hands for a longer period, the germs sitting on the bar are likely to get washed as well.

Despite these techniques, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that you should stick with liquid soap for better protection. Make sure that the liquid soap you use does not have the antibacterial chemicals mentioned earlier.

  1. You Use Refilled Dispenser

Researchers have established that the soap dispensers that are refilled from a large liquid soap bottle in the restrooms can lead to a 26-fold increase in bacteria on the hands of the washers.

On the other hand, it is important to remember that all the refillable dispensers may not be problematic. Soap dispensers that have been replaced with a sealed refill can decrease bacteria, as found in the same study.

You can preferably keep a small bottle of your own in case you are not comfortable using the soap available in public washrooms.

  1. Your Water Temperature is Off

You do not require hot water to kill of germs, as per a research. The study found no difference in the effectiveness of cleaning upon using water at different temperatures.

Using hot water to kill germs may not be bad for you, however, it can irritate your skin and have a higher effect on the climate change. So, do yourself a favor and reduce the level of heat.

  1. You Keep Choosing the Hand Dryer

A situation that is encountered by everyone includes the very moment when you wash your hands in a public toilet and cannot decide what to use: a hand dryer or paper towel

According to a study by the University of Westminster, using warm air to dry hands can increase the bacteria on the finger pads by an alarmingly high rate of 194 percent. On the palms, the bacterial quantity increases by 15 percent.

On the other hand, using paper towels to dry the hands decrease the bacteria on finger pads by 76 percent and on the palms up to 77 percent.

hand washing mistakes

Do you always prefer hand dryer over tissues? You are not alone. Hand dryers have received a large amount of popularity, especially in the last few years due to environmental consciousness. The eco-friendliness of these dryers are dependent on the type you are using.

Standard warm air dryers tend to be more harmful to the environment as compared to 100 percent recycled paper towels. These air dryers are manufactured using 100 percent virgin content.

The most recent types of hairdryers are, however, safe for the environment, and are known as jet dryers.


Nancy holds a Pharmacy degree from University of Michigan and Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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