Handwashing experiment: How well are you washing your hands?

Are you washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds? We did an experiment to find out how well we are, or aren’t, washing our hands. 

The Centers for Disease Control recommends you wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to fight against bacteria, COVID-19 and other germs. The CDC recommends singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to help you reach 20 seconds. You can also sing songs like the chorus to Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” or Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” 

To test our handwashing techniques, we used an educational tool recommended to us by experts from the University of Minnesota. The product we used is called Glo Germ. Glo Germ is a lotion you rub on your hands that simulates germs. Under ultraviolet light the residue from the lotion glows, showing you how “clean” or “dirty” your hands are. For the experiment, lather your hands with the lotion and see what they look under the UV light. Then, wash your hands like normal and put them back under the UV light. This shows you how much residue was or wasn’t, washed off, mimicking everyday germs. 

In FOX9’s experiment we saw a big difference between a 10-second hand wash and the 20-second CDC recommended hand wash. Hand sanitizer didn’t get off as much residue as handwashing did, but the CDC says hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol will help fight against COVID-19. They say it’s important to make sure the hand sanitizer dries after you apply it before touching anything. 

Here are other tips from the CDC on handwashing: 

1.    Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
2.    Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
3.    Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
4.    Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
5.    Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Information about using hand sanitizer: 

•    Sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs.
•    Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
•    Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.