The photographic proof you DO have to wash your hands after going to the loo
It seems like stating the absolute obvious: after you’ve gone to the loo, wash your hands. But judging by a viral clip that surfaced on social media last week, this simple piece of health advice may have been lost on a new generation.
In the short video, which has been viewed seven million times on Twitter, American social-media personalities Jordyn Woodruff and Alex Bennett admit they don’t wash their hands after – forgive the language – going for a pee.
‘I made the conscious decision to stop washing my hands in college,’ Woodruff told listeners of the pair’s popular podcast Mean Girl. ‘One day I was like, “I’m just not going to wash them.” ’
To which Bennett replies: ‘I don’t really trust people that wash their hands [after going to the toilet], because I don’t think it actually does anything.’
The clip has since amassed 350,000 views on video-sharing app TikTok, with thousands of comments, too. Many were keen to point out that Woodruff and Bennett are far from alone. One said ‘Ninety-nine per cent of people who say they wash their hands are lying’, while another wrote: ‘Most men do not.’
Not washing your hands after using the lavatory encourages the rapid growth of dangerous bugs
Washing for six seconds without soap is only just barely more effective than not washing
According to some studies, about two-thirds of men leave their hands unwashed after going to the toilet.
‘This attitude is more common than most people think,’ says Dr Marina Serdar, a microbiologist at the University of Nottingham. ‘Some people forget; others just can’t be bothered.’
ProfESSOR Sally Bloomfield, chair of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene, says: ‘Despite what many people might think, soap doesn’t kill bacteria – it lifts the bacteria from your skin and then the water washes them away. So not only do you need to use plenty of soap, you also must rinse your hands long enough to get rid of all the germs.’
But surveys show about a quarter of Britons don’t wash their hands with soap and water.
So just how bad for our health are unhygienic habits?
American social media star Jordyn Woodruff, pictured, has announced she no longer wants to wash her hands after using the bathroom
Studies show toilets are, unsurprisingly, a hotspot for germs. Three of the most common are E.coli, salmonella and norovirus, all of which can trigger painful, and occasionally deadly, stomach bugs that lead to vomiting and diarrhoea.
This is because these bugs are found in faeces, which can get on to hands through the process of going to the toilet.
‘It’s not just the process of wiping or touching your genitals,’ explains Prof Bloomfield. ‘These particles get everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you only went in for a wee, you still need to thoroughly wash your hands every time.’
Bugs also spread through other forms of contact with humans and animals. This is why experts also advise hand-washing after touching uncooked meat, after coughing, sneezing or handling pets.
They say that inadequate hand-washing, or no cleaning at all, allows germs to spread into the community. Studies suggest that 14 per cent of banknotes and ten per cent of credit cards have faecal matter on them. One research paper even found that a quarter of people in the UK have traces of faecal matter on their hands.
In December, health officials warned that significant levels of E.coli could be found on supermarket self-checkout machines.
This picture was taken after the volunteer washed their hands for six seconds with soap
This photograph was taken after the volunteer washed with soap and water for 15 seconds
Meanwhile, this winter the UK saw its worst norovirus wave in more than five years, with thousands of elderly people hospitalised as a result of the bug. The size of the outbreak is thought to have been largely a result of reduced immunity caused by pandemic restrictions that stopped people from mingling in public. Experts say it could have been less widespread if people were simply better at hand-washing.
‘Washing your hands isn’t just about protecting yourself from germs – it’s also about stopping others around you, who could be more vulnerable, from getting them,’ says Dr Serdar.
There is clear evidence that hand-washing reduces the risk of illness. In 2015, a review of worldwide diarrhoea studies by the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group found that it reduced the risk of the disease by up to 50 per cent.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if everyone in the world routinely washed their hands, one million deaths a year could be prevented.
Still, the evidence isn’t enough to convince some.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday’s Medical Minefield podcast, one woman from Bristol, who asked to be called Rebecca, admits she rarely washes her hands after using the toilet. The 37-year-old said: ‘If I’m going for a wee, I usually don’t wash my hands. I think it’s because you can’t see the bacteria – if you illuminated my hands and showed me where the bacteria is, then it might be different.’
What is the best way to wash hands?
WE examined some of the most common hand-washing methods, as well as not washing at all, to see what each one does.
I began by lathering my hands in a gel which simulates how bacteria cling to the skin. It glows under UV light and contains particles the same size as bacteria, so any that are left behind give an idea of how good the technique is.
I first rinsed my hands under warm water for six seconds without soap – the average length of time people spend washing their hands. This barely removed any ‘germs’.
I then tried again using soap for about six seconds, and about half of the ‘germs’ lingered. A quick wash does not suffice.
Next up was 15 seconds with soap – about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Almost all of the ‘germs’ had been removed, apart from small traces. Only after 30 seconds of washing were my hands completely spotless.