The Global Handwashing Day which falls the 15th of October, is dedicated to support a culture of handwashing with soap and to raise awareness of its benefits. Founded by the Global Handwashing Partnership, Global Handwashing Day serves as an opportunity to design, test and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times.
Handwashing is recognised globally as an important, easy and effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. As the world battles with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is a poignant reminder of how the simple act of washing your hands can reduce and contain the spread of contagious diseases. Don’t skip the soap, keep your loved ones safe!
The history behind handwashing
Handwashing enhances hygiene standards and the quality of life for many communities worldwide. However, handwashing’s life-saving properties came as an unexpected surprise.
In 1848, a Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweiss, faced a crisis when his maternity ward had high mortality rates of maternal deaths from childbed fever. Subsequently, he discovered that the doctors in his ward would go straight from dissecting a cadaver, dead from bacterial infection (sepsis), to delivering a baby, without washing their hands. He hypothesized that the infectious particles from the cadavers were entering the mother’s bodies after childbirth.
After introducing and implementing new hand hygiene and instrument sterilisation rules, the mortality rate in his maternity ward dropped from a staggering 18% to just a mere 1%!
The importance of handwashing with soap
Washing with soap and water is one of the key public health practices that can significantly reduce the rate of a pandemic. Consequently, it is lauded as the first line of defense against infectious disease. Hand washing with soap can prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as
- Gastrointestinal infections
- Chicken pox
- Hepatitis A
However, despite handwashing being globally recognized as one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs, the actual rates of hand hygiene compliance remain worryingly low. Globally, only 1 in 5 (19%) people globally wash their hands with soap after defecating!*
What is soap?
Soap is an emulsifying agent that bonds oil and water-based compounds together. It is made of molecules with hydrophilic (water-loving) heads and hydrophobic (water-fearing) tails. When washing hands with soap, hydrophobic tails of the soap molecules attempt to avoid water; in the process, they wedge themselves into the lipid envelopes of certain microbes and viruses. This process destabilizes the virus structure, kills the bacteria and renders the viruses useless.*
In the mid-19th century, as chemistry developed and the science behind certain ingredients became better understood, milder forms of soap were developed for personal hygiene. These soaps come in the form of bar soap. While bar soaps are effective at keeping clean, they are extremely slippery and hard to handle when wet. More importantly, sharing bar soaps makes them a hot spot for bacteria breeding and cross-contamination. Moreover, bar soap often sits out in the open, making it vulnerable to all the germs in the washroom.
Subsequently, with the advent of liquid soap in 1970, cleaning and washing became even easier and more hygienic.
9 facts that will make you want to wash your hands
- One sneeze disperses up to 100,000 particles of bacteria into the air
- Hands transmits nearly 80% of illnesses
- Nail extensions harbour more germs than natural nails
- Germs can survive on hands for up to 3 hours
- There are as many as 10 million bacteria from your fingers to elbows
- Damp hands spread 1000x more germs than dry hands
- Mobile phone and keyboard are dirtier than a toilet seat
- Germs from a flushing toilet with the lid can travel as far as 1.8 metres
- The number of germs on your fingertips double after using the toilet
How to wash your hands
If reading those facts makes your skin crawl and gives you the urge to wash your hands, here’s how to wash your hands to help prevent the spread of diseases.
Wash your hands at regular intervals including
- Before and after preparing food
- Before and after eating
- After using the washroom
- Following a cough or sneeze
- After handling garbage and waste material
To wash hands properly, 20-seconds is the recommended duration to ensure clean hands. Here are the 7 steps of washing your hands:
- Wet your hands and pump enough soap to cover all areas. Then rub your hands palm to palm
- Right palm over the left hand with interlaced fingers and vice versa
- Palm to palm with fingers interlaced
- Backs of fingers with opposing palms, fingers interlocked
- Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right thumb and vice versa
- Rub fingertips of the right hand in the left palm and vice versa
- Rotational rubbing of both wrists. Finish off by rinsing your hands with water
Practice good hand hygiene
This year, the Global Handwashing Day’s theme is “Clean Hands for All” which follows the objective to leave no one behind in the Sustainable Development Agenda. The theme is a reminder that we must be inclusive when addressing handwashing disparities globally. Above all, hand washing facilities should be available and well-maintained in all washrooms.
Soap dispensers serve as a convenient and hygienic way to dispense soap in washrooms. Unlike bar soaps, liquid or foam soap dispensers minimises cross-contamination. For an enhanced hygiene solution, Initial’s No-Touch Soap Dispensers utilise sensors to dispense the right amount of soap needed for effective handwashing. It effectively reduces surface contact and minimises the risk of cross-contamination among users. Not only that, the soap dispensers have antibacterial surfaces to inhibit bacterial growth on it.
However, despite good handwashing practices, it is important that the surfaces around you are clean as well. For instance, even if your hands are clean, they may become contaminated with bacteria when coming into contact with a contaminated sink. Therefore, it is equally important to keep the area around the sink dry. After rinsing, be sure to dry hands with paper towels and dispose in an appropriate receptacle as damp hands can spread up to 1000 times more bacteria than dry hands!
Initial’s Paper Hand Towel Dispensers delivers an efficient and tamper-proof method of dispensing paper towels. It ensures a safe and sanitary process of drying your hands, free from contamination. Alternatively, another effective and fast solution is to use a hand dryer. Initial’s Jet Hand Dryers deliver a high velocity sheet of air that dries hands in just 9 seconds. In addition, it activates automatically with its sensors to maintain high hygiene standards.
Initial hygiene solutions come in a range of colours to match your washroom design and business branding.
What if you don’t have access to soap and water?
If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitisers with a concentration of at least a 60% alcohol can be used to reduce up to 99.9% of germs on hands quickly. For instance, to encourage good hand hygiene habits, you can install hand sanitiser dispensers at common gathering points or walkways.
To use hand sanitizer,
- Apply an appropriate amount of the solution to the palm of one hand
- Rub your hands together
- Rub the solution over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds
Initial’s alcohol hand sanitiser kills up to 99.9% of germs and is quick drying. To minimise the transfer of bacteria on contact surfaces, Initial’s No-Touch Hand Sanitiser Dispenser uses sensors to detect hand movement to deliver just the right amount of sanitising gel. Additionally, the hand sanitiser dispensers have antibacterial surfaces to curb the growth of bacteria.
About Initial Singapore
Initial Hygiene is a hygiene service provider in over 45 countries and is trusted among various business sectors including hospitality, commercial, industrial and retail sectors. Initial, as the experts in Hygiene, is dedicated to taking care of customers’ hygiene needs including both in and out of the washroom space. Above all, we collaborate with our businesses and raise service values by introducing eco-friendly solutions and educational support. Initial is also a member of Restroom Association Singapore.
Contact Initial Singapore at 6347 8138 for an enhanced hygiene solution
WaterAid.org: Globally, 4 out of 5 people do not wash hands after using the bathroom
The New York Times: Why Soap Works