Today I went to a presentation by an expert in handwashing. Seriously, Dr. Elaine Larson's been studying this since the '60s. She's just completed a study that looked at whether antimicrobial housecleaning products were effective.
The research design was cool. They recruited families with at least one pre-school age kid (rife with disease as they are) and supplied them with soap, laundry detergent, glass cleaner, etc. Every cleaning product they needed. The double-blind was whether the families got a set of products with no antimicrobials at all, or a set where they all had antimicrobials. Then the researchers followed them for a year noting disease symptoms and observing a lot of other factors for possible future studies.
The results were surprising. Antimicrobial products don't make any difference in preventing disease. No difference at all. So, waste of money and possibly contributing to the development of resistant strains of bactera. So stop buying them y'all.
Other cool, useful info:
The mechanical process of washing the hands is what does most of the work. Even washing with plain water (no soap) or sand (as is done in parts of Africa) works pretty good.
Amount of time spent washing means nothing unless done for a long time. No difference between 10 sec and 30 sec. Five minutes of washing will work better sure, but who does this besides surgeons and people with OCD?
Vigorous, abrasive scrubbing is worse as it not only causes more bacteria to be shed after washing, it damages the skin leaving the person open to possible infection. Oh, and you throw off tons more bacteria after you shower than before. So that clean feeling? Not so much.
Washing clothes at non-hot settings, especially underclothes, spreads bacteria (for instance, fecal bacteria) all over the clothes and doesn't kill them. If you dry them with heat, fine, but if you let them air-dry, they're still contaminated. So wash your unmentionables in hot water.
The best way to cleanse hands, for healthcare workers and at home, is to use one of them alcohol-based hand sanitizers. They work the best and won't contribute to the problem of resistant bacteria. Find one that has an emollient in it so the skin doesn't dry out.
Lastly, bacteria love fake nails. Many hospitals are banning them among their employees.
This has been the health lesson for today.
To me, this image says, "When washing a wooden hand, there is no need to use soap. Just let the water flow over the beautiful grain of your, sadly, unarticulated fake appendage." Right?