You’re Probably Not Washing Your Hands Enough. Here’s Why That’s Disgusting

Shot of an unidentifiable young woman washing her hands by the bathroom sink
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Are you reading this article on your mobile phone? There are probably thousands of germs on its screen right now.

And you’re no better off using a computer to read this. Your keyboard and mouse are likely swarming with bacteria, too.

I’m not trying to gross you out, I swear.

I just want to remind you that flu season is particularly wretched this year, and the virus could be lurking on items we handle all day.

Besides being no fun, getting sick is really expensive, so it’s important to avoid accidentally picking up germs as you go about your day.

But germs don’t just hitch rides on phones and computers. They congregate on all kinds of places, including car keys, shopping cart handles and even bars of soap.

Catching the flu is awful, but even a common cold can knock you out for a few days; so for heaven’s sake, wash your hands.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, handwashing with soap:

  • Lowers respiratory illnesses in the general population 16 to 21%
  • Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
  • Reduces diarrheal illness in the general population by 31%

The CDC recommends washing your hands before eating; after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, blowing your nose or touching a sick person; and before and after preparing food or treating a wound.

Unfortunately, we can’t rely on everyone we meet to wash their hands well — or even at all.

A new survey by Bradley Corporation revealed “just two-thirds of respondents say they ‘always’ wash their hands after using a public restroom. Moreover, 38% report they ‘frequently’ see others leave a public restroom without washing.”


When it comes to staying healthy, we need to take matters into our own hands, if you will.

The CDC recommends washing your hands with warm or cold running water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Rinse, then dry your hands with a clean paper towel or simply let them air dry.

If you don’t have access to soap and water, hand sanitizer will do in a pinch. “[B]ut sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals,” notes the CDC.

Useful Alternatives to Handshake Greetings

Now that I’ve told you there are people out there who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, you may be reluctant to shake hands with people when you greet them.

I don’t blame you.

In fact, 45% of Bradley survey respondents say they avoid shaking hands with people altogether.

Instead they wave hello, fist bump or air kiss.

Personally, I’m a fan of the elbow bump.

It may look silly but I can’t remember the last time I caught a bug by licking my elbow.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She can’t really lick her elbow.