Flickr user Arlington County:

Do you wash your hands regularly? I bet you do. I bet you feel really great about it, too. Stow the smugness, Mr. Clean, turns out you're probably doing it wrong.

A new study published by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America found that one of the most popular hand-washing methods, officially endorsed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left a lot to be desired.


The study found the simple CDC method, which consists of basically rubbing your hands together for 20 seconds, left behind a lot more bacteria than a longer, more intense, six-step procedure recommended by the World Health Organization.

What is the WHO's hand-washing technique? I'm glad you asked. Here are some detailed charts to explain:

Did I say you could rest yet? We are only halfway through. Keep scrubbing.


As you can see, the process is long and involved. The study found it took about 42 seconds on average, and that only 65% of physicians and nurses observed performing the method completed it correctly.

But this is only needed for healthcare workers, right? Regular people don't need to worry about putting their right palm over their left dorsum with interlaced fingers (and vice versa)?


Obviously no one's going to force you, but study author Jaqui Reilly told the New York Times that it's “the single most important intervention that you can do to prevent health care-associated infection but also to protect yourself and your family from infections and viruses.”

If you care about yourself and your family, wash your hands. And skip the Dyson hand dryer while you're at it.

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