daily wisdom hand washing

Daily Wisdom: Washing Your Hands In Cold Water Works

After handling dirty dumbbells, lathering time matters.

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A new study in the Journal of Food Protection says washing your hands in cold water is just as effective at removing bacteria as warm water—as long as you soap up for at least 10 seconds. 


A research team led by Donald Schaffner, Ph.D., professor at Rutger's University found that when it came to removing bacteria (in this case a harmless strain of E. coli), washing hands in water that was 60 degrees Fahrenheit was just as effective as 79 or 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, Schaffner notes that 10 seconds was better than five, yet just as effective as soaping up for longer. He also says that the type of soap (antibacterial vs. regular) didn't play a huge role.

Even though E. coli is a different microorganism than Staphylococcus aureus (that causes the Staph infections and MRSA you hear about people contracting at the gym), the removal method of one will probably work for the other, says Schaffner.

To get rid of the germs you inevitably pick up at even the cleanest of health clubs, wash your hands in any temperature you want, but lather with soap for at least 10 seconds. This means the time from squirting the soap on to putting your hands under the faucet, Schaffner points out. If you want to go the extra-hygienic mile, Schaffner recommends finishing up with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which kills germs that even scalding water cannot.