It seems pretty straightforward: After you go to the bathroom, wash your hands. But judging by a viral clip that appeared on social media last week, this simple health tip may have been lost to a new generation.
In the short video, which has been viewed seven million times on Twitter, US social media personalities Jordin Woodruff and Alex Bennett admit that they don’t wash their hands yet – excuse the language – to urinate.
“I made a conscious decision to stop washing my hands in college,” Woodruff told listeners of the popular Mean Girl podcast. One day I was like, “I’m not going to wash them.” “
Bennett replied, “I don’t really trust people who wash their hands (after going to the toilet), because I don’t think it actually does anything.”
Since then, the clip has garnered 350,000 views on the video-sharing app TikTok, with thousands of comments as well. Many were keen to point out that Woodruff and Bennett are far from alone. “Ninety-nine percent of people who say they wash their hands are lying,” said one, while another wrote, “Most men don’t.”
Not washing your hands after using the toilet encourages the rapid growth of dangerous insects
Washing for six seconds without soap is hardly more effective than not washing
According to some studies, about two-thirds of men leave their hands unwashed after going to the toilet.
“This situation is more common than most people think,” says Dr Marina Serdar, a microbiologist at the University of Nottingham. Some people forget. Others can’t be disturbed.
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 removes bacteria from your skin and then water washes it away. So not only do you need to use a lot of soap, you should also rinse your hands long enough to get rid of all the germs.
But surveys show that about a quarter of Britons do not wash their hands with soap and water.
So how harmful are unhealthy habits to our health?
American social media star Jordyn Woodruff, pictured, announced that she no longer wants to wash her hands after using the bathroom.
Studies show that toilets are, unsurprisingly, a germ hotspot. Three of the most common are Escherichia coli, salmonella, and norovirus, all of which can lead to painful and sometimes deadly bugs that result in vomiting and diarrhea.
This is because these insects are present in the feces, which can get onto the hands during the process of going to the toilet.
‘It’s not just a process of wiping or touching your genitals,’ explains Professor Bloomfield. These particles are everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you only go in for a week, you still need to wash your hands thoroughly every time.
Insects are also spread through other forms of contact with humans and animals. This is why experts also advise washing hands after touching uncooked meat, coughing or sneezing, or after handling pets.
They say insufficient hand washing, or not cleaning at all, allows germs to circulate in the community. Studies show that 14 percent of banknotes and 10 percent of credit cards contain droppings. One research paper even found that a quarter of people in the UK have fecal matter on their hands.
In December, health officials warned that significant levels of E. coli could be found in supermarket checkout machines.
This photo was taken after the volunteer washed his hands with soap for six seconds
This photo was taken after the volunteer was washed with soap and water for 15 seconds
Meanwhile, this winter the UK saw its worst norovirus outbreak in more than five years, with thousands of elderly people hospitalized as a result of the bug. It is believed that the scale of the outbreak was the result of reduced immunity due to epidemiological restrictions that prevented people from mixing in public places. Experts say it could have been less prevalent if people were simply better at washing hands.
“Washing your hands isn’t just about protecting yourself from germs — it’s also about preventing others around you, who may be at greater risk, from getting them,” says Dr. Sardar.
There is clear evidence that hand washing reduces the risk of disease. In 2015, a review of studies of diarrhea worldwide by the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group found that it reduced the risk of developing the disease by up to 50 percent.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if everyone routinely washed their hands, one million deaths could be prevented annually.
However, the evidence is not enough to convince some.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday’s Medical Minefield podcast, a woman from Bristol, who asked to be named Rebecca, admitted she rarely washed her hands after using the toilet. If I’m going out for the week, the 37-year-old said, I usually don’t wash my hands. I think it’s because you can’t see the bacteria – if you light up my hand and show me where the bacteria are, it might be different.
What is the best way to wash hands?
We looked at some of the most common methods of hand washing, as well as not washing at all, to find out what each one does.
I started spraying my hands in a gel that mimics how bacteria cling to skin. It glows under UV light and contains particles the same size as bacteria, so any left behind gives an idea of just how good the technique is.
I first rinsed my hands in warm water for six seconds without soap—the average amount of time people spend washing their hands. This hardly removed any “germs”.
Then I tried again to use the soap for six seconds and about half of the “germs” remain. A quick wash is not enough.
Next up was 15 seconds with soap—the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Almost all “germs” have been removed, except for small traces. Only after 30 seconds of washing are my hands completely clean.