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Are You Washing Your Hands All Wrong? Only If You’re Overthinking It

As the coronavirus spreads, the CDC has some very simple advice

As concerns ramp up around the spread of the new coronavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s no vaccine yet for the current strain of the infectious disease. Instead, we’re left to fend for ourselves and take routine preventative actions: Keep your hands out of your eyes, nose and mouth, and cover your cough when you sneeze.

Most important, says the CDC, is to simply wash your hands. With soap. Remove ? that ? bacteria.

It should really go without saying, but not all men are capable of leaving a bathroom with clean fingers after handling their junk. As MEL reported last year, some guys refuse to wash their hands, period. It’s a dark and depressing world we live in. Don’t make it worse by walking around with fingers full of ball sweat and/or fecal matter. Lather up some soap. Seriously, it’s not that hard.

How Long Should You Wash Your Hands?

Want more detail, to make sure you’re washing correctly? According to David Westenberg, a microbiologist at Missouri University of Science and Technology who’s known as the Germ Juggler, proper hand-washing takes all of 20 seconds. “What people need to do to protect themselves is the good hand washing technique we learned in preschool. Wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds. Say your ABCs or sing the “Twinkle, Twinkle, [Little Star]” song. That’s all you need to do,” Westenberg tells MEL.

What Good Hand Washing Actually Does

The goal of hand washing is to remove dead skin cells and the transient microbes that sit atop them. Westenberg cautions that these bacterial microorganisms pass through touch. Removing them can be completed with any general soap and a little warm water. “There’s nothing special. There’s no magic. A good rubbing of the hands will do the trick,” he says.

When to Wash Your Hands — And How Hard

Hand washing isn’t a time-sensitive routine you must do every 30 minutes. Just soap and rise after completing daily tasks or out in public where you’re bound to touch many objects. “Wash when you do something where you might pick up microbes from other people,” Westenberg says. Touched the subway pole? Wash your hands. Hit the gym? Wash. Sat staring at your phone for an hour? I mean, you know what’s on your phone, right?

Yes, there are guys who never wash their hands — but there are also people who spend several minutes going full The Aviator on their fingers, scrubbing every single skin cell off.

Yeah, you don’t need to do that. Howard Hughes had severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, which got so bad psychologists believe it led to his reclusiveness in the two decades before his death. For most of us, Westenberg says, a simple scrub does the trick.

What About Drying Your Hands?

Now if you’re like me and get anxious about everything, drying your newly cleaned hands is stressful too. Those Dyson hand dryers are fun but look like they’re full of bacteria and blowing germs everywhere. We know paper towels are an environmental waste. Ultimately, though, neither is more hygienic than the other. Actually, Westenberg says, “the drying of the hands is not part of the cleaning process. They’re just blowing air. There’s no risk that comes from it. The preference comes from an environmental preference.”

Okay, so we’ve got clean hands. Now what about those masks celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson are wearing? According to the Washington Post, masks aren’t necessary unless you’re already sick. Because coronavirus is a respiratory virus, the best preventative care is all about protecting your lungs. So, seriously, just wash your hands — even if only for peace of mind.