Don’t Give Germs a Turn

BY Racheli Hibben TIMEDecember 18, 2013 PRINT

It’s that time of year again—the sickness bugs are out and about and it’s up to us to protect ourselves, and those around us, from their unwanted presence. Luckily, simple soap and water can stop them dead in their tracks, and developing healthy cleaning habits in your family can go a long way toward keeping everyone healthy. So post these handy reminders on your fridge or bathroom mirror to help to keep you and your family healthy this winter.

Hand Washing

Washing your hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of many types of infections and illnesses. More germs are passed around through shaking hands and touching, than kissing, so it is important to thoroughly wash your hands. 

There are numerous times throughout the day when your hands should be washed, so use common sense as to when you the key times are for you and your family. 


It goes without saying that you should wash your hands after using the restroom and also after helping young children or changing infants’ diapers.

Trash and Bodily Fluids

You should also wash your hands after touching garbage or blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.


Always wash your hands before preparing food and feeding yourself or others. Wash dishtowels frequently and disinfect sponges by boiling them for five minutes.

Illness and Minor Injuries

Thoroughly wash your hands before and after caring for a sick person or treating a cut or wound. 

How to Wash Your Hands

It is recommended that you wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. You can have your children hum “Happy Birthday” twice to keep them washing long enough, or write your own hand-washing ditty. Be mindful that the hot water can get significantly hotter as you wash so be careful not to get burned. 

Finger Nails

When washing your hands, also pay particular attention to your fingertips and nails. Long and false nails harbor more germs than short, natural ones, so scrub carefully if you have them.


Be sure to dry your hands properly after washing, as germs spread more easily on damp or wet hands. While hand blow dryers don’t always get your hands completely dry, paper towels can, and can also be used to turn off the faucet and open to the door handle when leaving a public restroom. If paper towels are not available, see if you can nudge the door open with your foot. If you carry tissues with you, you can also use one to open the door.

Cleaning Electronic Devices 

When was the last time you cleaned your cellphone? With close proximity to your mouth and nose, cellphones are a great hangout for grimy germs. 

Computer keyboards and many other devices, such as tablets, are also full of germs, with some studies having found that mobile phones have more germs than toilet seats. It’s not surprising when we think about how many times we touch our electronics each day. So make an effort to regularly clean these items to stop the spread of germs in your household. And don’t forget the TV remote too.

While you could spend your whole day scrubbing away, try to be mindful of the things you touch most often and what items come into close proximity to your face and start with them. 

Antibacterial Soaps

In recent years, questions have arisen about the benefits of antibacterial soaps. Numerous studies have shown that they are no more effective than regular soap at reducing hand bacteria and preventing infectious illness in household settings. Additionally, the antibacterial soaps kill both bad and good bacteria, which can further compromise our immune systems.

Several studies have also found that bacteria had adapted to resist triclosan, the active ingredient in many antibacterial soaps. 

The FDA currently has triclosan under review after it was found to alter hormone regulation in animals.

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