Ways You’re Washing Your Hands Wrong

You wash only after using the bathroom

iStock/Janine Lamontagne

Anytime you touch a public surface—elevator buttons, a doorknob, the ATM, or a subway pole—you’re at risk for picking up germs or bacteria. “Most people know to wash after going to the bathroom, but you should wash periodically throughout the entire day, especially during cold and flu season,” says Dr. Raj.

For times when it’s not convenient to get to a sink, stash a bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag or desk drawer. A sanitizer with alcohol content of at least 60 percent is effective at killing many types of germs, says the CDC. Check out these 13 face-washing mistakes you make more than you’d like to admit.

You assume you have to use hot water

iStock/ChristinLola

Soap and hot water is one tip from Mom you can safely ignore. Dr. Raj says that despite widespread belief that you need hot water to kill hand germs, lukewarm or even cold water will do the job just as well. (In fact, they’re actually better for your skin because they’re less drying). A recent study by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee found that cold water reduced levels of bacteria just as well as hot water, as long as hands were scrubbed, rinsed, and dried properly. Researchers noted that while heat has been proven to kill bacteria, you’d need to use boiling water at a temp of about 212 degrees Fahrenheit to see a significantly greater reduction in pathogens. Ouch. Make sure you never make these 7 bathroom cleaning mistakes again!

You skip the soap and use hand sanitizer instead

Female hands applying antibacterial liquid soap close up.Boris Bulychev/Shutterstock

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can remove and inactivate many types of microbes effectively, but it has its limits like not being able to eliminate all types of germs or harmful chemicals, according to the CDC. Plus, many people use hand sanitizer incorrectly from not using a large enough volume of liquid sanitizer to wiping it off before it’s had time to dry. Soap and water are your best bet for fighting off germs like norovirus and Clostridium difficile, a bacteria that can cause diarrhea or life-threatening inflammation of the colon.  Don’t miss these 50 everyday mistakes that could be harming your health and how to fix them.

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