WASHINGTON — We've been told by many medical experts over the past several weeks to wash our hands to fight the spread of coronavirus. But it might not be as simple as how long you're washing.
Instead, what you're washing your hands with and how you’re doing it are critical.
"The amount of time you spend washing your hands is important, but the other thing to realize is technique matters, too," Dr. Donald Schaffner said.
Schaffner is a professor of food microbiology at Rutgers University. He’s also a hand-washing expert, having studied and published research papers on the topic over the last 20 years.
According to Schaffner and other scientists, we should focus on more than simply how long you spend washing your hands.
The research showed that using antimicrobial soap is much more effective than using plain soap, especially if it has a chemical like triclosan. Alcohol-based hand rubs are more effective than either of them.
But that’s not the only piece to this puzzle. There’s still something to be said for good hand-washing technique.
"First, get your hands wet with water, next grab soap and lather your hands for at least 15 seconds, then rinse them off," Schaffner explains. "Finally, get your hands dry."
The other thing he says is think about the times you should wash.
"Wash every time you have a transition. If you come in from the grocery store, that's a good time to wash your hands," he said. "If you just got done walking the dog, it's a good time to wash your hands."
While hand-washing is ultimately important, Schaffner and others said the best thing you can still do to fight the spread is social distancing.