Not washing hands is like not wearing a seat belt

Woman fasteing seat belt
Splish-splash or clunk-click – soap and water can save your life too

It’s truer than you know, that your life is in your hands.

Because your hands are your life.

Helpless, hopeless

Without them, you could do very little.

All those everyday things would be impossible – eating, drinking, touching, feeling, holding, carrying, lifting, taking, giving.

Not much of a life when they’re gone, hey?

Which practically means that you rely on your hands for everything about living. Your physical involvement to the whole world around you.

You touch everything. And everything touches you.

Which gets a bit awkward sometimes. Yucky stuff sticks to your fingers and won’t come off. Or mud and dirt. Or noxious poo.

And because you can SEE the crud on your hands, you wash them off. Good, Jim.

Microscopic life threats

But how about when you can’t see stuff?

Because that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Yes, viruses and bacteria – that kind of junk. So small, you can’t see them without a microscope – and even then you need the high-powered kind.

So what? you say. You’ve read somewhere we’re all surrounded with germs – billions and billions of them all the time. You’re still perfectly fine and healthy, what difference does one more make?

Ah, that depends on the germ. The wrong one in the wrong place, and you look pretty stupid.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to get typhoid or cholera on you, right? Or those ones you keep reading about like HIV or Ebola?

Uh huh. So how do you know you’re NOT getting one, right now?

So that when you touch your face – which all of us do 2,000 to 3,000 times a day – an infection can’t get in through the soft tissue of your eyes, nose and mouth, turning you into a basket case, or vegetable, or worse?

The wrong kind of bacteria

Sure, you’re surrounded by bacteria, your body’s even colonised with them – 10 times more of them than there are of you, 100 trillion cells. But they’re all in harmony, all in balance. Without them, you’d soon be in trouble – they’re SUPPOSED to be there.

But it only takes one of the bad guys to put you in hospital. Oxygen, blood transfusions, antibiotics.

And then they find out, like Ebola, that the damn stuff is resistant to everything. None of the medicines work. Whoops, sorry!

Yeah, like you weren’t wearing a seat belt. Or you went to sleep on the dotted line in the middle of the road. Exactly the same chance you take when you don’t wash your hands.

Most of the time you get away with it.

Crash, bang, wallop

Then one day out of the blue, somebody rear-ends you in a multiple shunt because of motorway fog. Straight through the windscreen – and your head and five ribs suddenly discover why they call it the “hard shoulder”.

Sure, the guy you hit was in the wrong place at wrong time.

So was the methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus in the web between your finger and thumb. You aren’t coming back from a dose of that stuff unless you’re very, very lucky and have very, very good doctors.

Because no medicine works on it – you and your immune system are on your own.

Not so smart-ass now that you’re always surrounded by bacteria, hey? It only takes one.

The same in your car. One little thing out of place.

You don’t know that a stone’s cut your brake lines and you’ve no way of stopping. Or the driver of that HGV is about to have a heart attack, and smash through the central Armco, head-on into you.

No soap and water. No clunk-click. Same difference.

Waiting to happen

It can happen any time – and it will.

The same with the germs around you, in your working and living space. Some on your hands, some you breathe in.

Not every place stops them with a Hypersteriliser and its ionised hydrogen peroxide mist – the crash helmet to go with the seat belt.

So you can’t always assume all germs are taken out and you’re safe.

Which means do it, every time you think of it. Wash your hands – especially after the loo and before food.

Your life depends on it, better believe it.

Because when it finally does happen, the cramps, upchucks and diarrhoea you go through from even something “harmless” like norovirus, is a million times worse than the £100 fixed penalty fine for forgetting your seat belt.

Washing up by hand is like doing it in a sewer

Disagreeing woman
Just because a thing looks clean doesn’t mean it is – or that it’s germ-free either

Shocking?

But unfortunately, all too true.

Because you know that cloth or scourer you keep in the sink to scrub the grime off?

It probably has more germs on it than a stack of toilets – 200,000 of them to be exact. The same capacity as a small city sewer.

Germs, germs, germs

And you know why?

Because all it does is scrape food scraps away. Not disinfect or anything.

And unless you wash it out thoroughly with every use – then dry it completely in the microwave – it becomes a fast and continuous breeding place for germs.

Warm, moist, rich in organic nutrients – rinsing food away doesn’t get rid of the microscopic fragments germs feed on – they grow and multiply with every wash, transferring onto everything they touch.

The water you’re using doesn’t help either.

You put the plug in, and the water, squeeze some liquid – and think you’re handling it.

Germ soup

Uh huh. Putting all your crockery and cutlery through the same germ bath, more like.

Unless you wash under running water, which is wasteful – and doesn’t give the detergent opportunity to act.

Rinsing doesn’t help much either. That stream of water is hardly strong enough to prise the germs off. Even if the water’s hot. Because hot enough to kill gems would be hotter than your hands could stand. And anyway, at microscopic level there’s plenty of rough surfaces to hang onto.

Then there’s wiping up afterwards.

Another nightmare.

It might feel right, but that dish towel also transfers germs evenly over everything you wash. And though your dishes look clean, the average germ can probably last on there for up to a week or more.

Norovirus, campylobacter, salmonella, e. coli. Any one of them enough to make you feel very ill – or even put you in hospital.

Far from saving time and water – or being as hygienic as you hoped

Dishwasher efficiency

And all avoidable if you use the dishwasher.

For a start, the water is super-hot to soften food scraps, so the sprayers can blast them away. Way more efficient than that yucky scourer.

The water is constantly changed too – with several rinses and washes. That soup of germs never gets a chance to develop.

There’s less water involved as well. It needs several gallons to fill a kitchen sink – around 6,000 gallons a year on average. But you look – a dishwasher cycles water out of that small tray at the bottom, there’s very little wastage.

Oh, and drying?

Everything sits and air dries – no contamination with that germ-spreading dish cloth. What could be easier?

The germ-go-round

But it’s not just hand washing dishes that spreads germs around. It’s other cleaning chores too.

Because we’re used to scrubbing stuff away, we think that visually clean is often good enough. It looks OK, therefore it is.

If we get worried, we might bung in a disinfectant – but even then, our procedure is still the same. We wipe and scrub until we think it looks right – and that’s it.

But disinfectants can only work if they have enough contact time – and if they’re concentrated enough to do the necessary. Viruses and bacteria are hardened survivors – a quick wipe and a rinse is seldom enough. (Tweet this) And who can live with the sharp lung-piercing smell of ammonia or bleach?

OK, so we have a go at all the surfaces we can think of – worktops, tables, counters, the floor. And again, we reckon that’s it.

Only half the job though, if you think about it. Especially if it’s a food-prep area.

What about under things, or behind them, or stuff that dribbles down where it shouldn’t?

What about the walls or the ceiling? When were they last cleaned? And don’t forget, hot air rises. What sort of gunk could be up there from months of cooking or other activities, waiting to infect something?

Come to think of it, what about the air itself – often 80% of the room space or more?

If it was laden with dust, you’d see it at once – but germs are so small they’re invisible. And they’re there alright, floating around in their billions. We know all about them too – the sore throat and more that happens when we breathe some of them in.

Machine sterilising

Yup, you’re right. Like washing up, hand cleaning doesn’t get rid of germs either. But can you imagine the drama some kind of room washing machine might create?

Which is why there’s a Hypersteriliser.  A wheelie-bin sized machine that sterilises rooms with an ultra-fine mist of hydrogen peroxide gas plasma – ionised so it reaches everywhere by static electric charge – destroying all viruses and bacteria in around 40 minutes.

That easy, and that simple. Which means it’s probably time for coffee.

And anyway, who the heck wants to live in a sewer?