The why and the how of handwashing for little ones

Every parent knows that little hands go everywhere, often confirmed by sticky handprints on our walls and windows. Hand washing is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of infections, and instilling good handwashing habits as soon as they are old enough to stand at the sink can help protect our children for life.

It’s especially important at this age, as young childrens’ immune systems are still developing and they are most susceptible to infections such as VTEC, a particularly nasty form of E. coli.

We have enlisted the help of Rufus the Messy Monster in our new campaign to make handwashing interesting and fun for young children. Rufus will be telling us all about the importance of good handwashing, and when and how to do it properly.

In a recent research report published by safefood, researchers found that one third of respondents that responded to an online survey reported frequently using only water to wash their hands rather than water and soap.

We have also put together answers to some of the handwashing questions we are most often asked:

So why is it so important to use soap when washing your hands?

Using soap and water is one of the most important parts of hand washing. Soap works because it is made up of molecules with two different ends. One end of soap molecules attach to water while the other end of the soap molecules attach to the grease and dirt (where the harmful bacteria will be).  This is how soap cleans your hands - it causes drops of grease and dirt to be pulled off your hands and suspended in water. These drops are then washed away when you rinse your hands.

You may also wonder if you should be using an antibacterial soap over a plain soap?

Well, according to scientific evidence there is little benefit in using antibacterial soap for hand washing over plain soaps. The important thing is to always use soap.

What temperature should the water be for effective hand washing?

Contrary to popular belief, evidence has shown that the use of warm water has no effect on reducing the level of bacteria from hands. The use of warm water rather than cold water simply makes hand washing more comfortable. For this reason the activity of soap, friction and rinsing become crucial to the effective removal of harmful bacteria from hands, the temperature of the water doesn’t matter.

What are the most commonly missed areas when hand washing?

Thumbs, tips of fingers and the space between your fingers are most often missed.

places of hands missed when washing

Why is drying an important part of the hand washing process?

Drying your hands is really important, if you have missed anything while washing, the rubbing action will help remove any bacteria. Also wet hands can both acquire and spread bacteria, proper hand drying is essential to prevent this.  Use of paper towel, clean hand towel, warm and jet air dryers are the methods commonly used to dry washed hands. If you’re using a hand towel it is important that it is clean to prevent cross contamination.

Now that you are armed with answers to all the important questions, why not introduce your little ones to Rufus and help your children to learn this vital skill.

Watch the video

Posted: 25/09/2017 16:35:34 by Linda Gordon
Filed under: Handwashing

About Me

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Linda Gordon
Hi, my name is Linda Gordon and I am Chief Specialist in Food Science with safefood. I’m a microbiologist and my work involves research into food safety, addressing queries on a range of food hygiene and safety issues, and managing our Knowledge Networks, which connect food safety professionals across the island of Ireland. I live in County Cork with my husband and two young sons. In my free time I love walking my (very elderly) Labrador, books, Scandinavian crime dramas, and eating the fantastic meals my husband cooks.