Why is handwashing important?

Why is handwashing important?


Written by Dr. Ian Harrison BSc, PhD.

hand holding bubbles


How hands spread coronavirus2

COVID-19 is primarily spread through social interaction. If a healthy person comes face to face with an infected person, they may contract the virus through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing. Your hands can be a major source of infection: the tiny droplets that hang in the air after a cough or sneeze may settle on surfaces such as counter tops, tables or even door handles, contaminating them. If you touch your face after touching these surfaces you may also contract the virus.


When to best wash your hands

Hand hygiene is key. It is important to wash your hands3:

  • Whenever you touch something that may be contaminated.
  • If you touch someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • After you use the bathroom.
  • Before eating, and before, during and after preparing food.
  • After blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing.
  • Before and after tending to a sick person, or a baby.
The best advice is to wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap or a non-soap based cleanser for at least 20 seconds whenever you can.

Dr. Ian Harrison


Why a non-soap based cleanser and what about soap?

Soap and non-soap based cleansers do exactly the same thing; they clean the skin. A key difference though is the type of ingredient used to do this. Soap is formed though a chemical process known as saponification, which is a reaction between strong bases. This reaction leaves the soap highly alkaline, which means that it usually has a pH of around 9 or 104. The skin itself has a natural pH of around 5, so an alkaline product like soap can alter the skins composition5 and potentially lead to irritation.

Non-soap based cleansers such as QV Gentle Wash contain synthetic detergents in place of soap. As the process doesn’t need to be highly alkaline, like soap, the pH of these products can be closer to that of the skin.

What this means is that non-soap based cleansers will work just as well as soap with a reduced chance of aggravating or irritating the skin.


Why handwashing is best, then hand sanitiser

Washing your hands properly with water and soap or a gentle non-soap based cleanser such as QV Gentle Wash is one of the best ways to help prevent COVID-19. Soap and non-soap based cleansers work by lifting dirt and contaminants like bacteria and viruses from the skin. The mechanical action of hand washing also plays a part; the act of rubbing your hands together can help to lift contaminants from the skin.

In fact, the mechanical action of washing your hands is a major reason why cleansing with water and soap or a non-soap based cleanser is the preferred method. While hand sanitisers can be effective against germs such as bacteria, they cannot remove dirt and grime from the hands. The best advice is to wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap or a non-soap based cleanser for at least 20 seconds whenever you can.

When this isn’t an option, keep a hand sanitiser such as Aqium close at hand.

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