Do you wash your hands thoroughly every time after you used the toilet and before every meal? Most of us do not despite saying that we do. Most of us also underestimate the power of clean hands. Keeping your hands clean can prevent catching an infection or spreading an infection to others, including young children and vulnerable adults who may get seriously ill.

The CDC recommends washing your hands “before eating, before, during, and after preparing food, before and after caring for someone who is sick or treating a cut or wound, after using the toilet, changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste, handling pet food or pet treats or touching garbage.”

That is a lot of hand washing that most of us don’t do, but know that we should be doing.

Even when we do wash your hands, 95% of us do it wrong and do not actually have clean hands after washing. The CDC has a hand washing tutorial in 5 easy steps and also provides a scientific explanation for each step here. These are the steps:

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. Be sure to 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.

hand washing

University of Pennsylvania “Are you better than average?” 2013 clean hands campaign.

Hand washing may not always be a practical options –  clean, running water is not always readily available outdoors and it isn’t always practical to visit public restrooms as frequently as required. Small children and wheelchair users are not always accommodated with basin and tap heights and access and those with dexterity issues may also not be able to make use of publicly supplied soap and water facilities.

I carry a hand sanitizer in my bag for such occasions and have a few issues with the standard alcohol-based gels: they are generally not manufactured with environmental and ethical policies behind them, using them before a finger food meal results in ingesting some of the gel, particularly with little children. It doesn’t taste nice and is not considered safe to ingest – in fact, too much is toxic and considered a poison.

There are natural, effective alternatives on the market:

Green People manufactures a foam-based hand sanitizer: Organic Children Sticky Hand Sanitiser
Bentley manufactures a Vegan approved hand sanitizer:  Organic Mother & Baby Hand Sanitizer
Aquiant manufactures a sanitizer endorsed by AllergyUK: Aquaint Cleansing Water

All three of the above are non-toxic with anti-bacterial properties. Their price tag is higher than that for alcohol-rubs, but I think it’s a cost-effective choice. Water and soap is often readily available and carrying a non-toxic sanitizer in your bag for other occasions is a sensible choice. A 50ml bottle has 125 – 200 generous applications which works out at around 5p per application, which I think is an excellent price tag for a pair of clean hands that will probably very soon touch your food, kids and face.

This post was first published on 15 November 2015. It contains affiliate links.