My coworkers recently had a fun little debate about whether they get their hands wet before or after applying soap when washing their hands. I’m here to set this shit straight. Washing your hands isn’t just a matter of quirks or preferences, like whether you place the toilet paper roll so it hangs over or under. Ordinarily, I truly wouldn’t give a single fuck about how exactly you wash your hands, but we’re in the midst of a pandemic. I have to care.
You’re supposed to wet your hands before applying soap. It’s literally how soap works. When you’re in the shower, do you just slap shampoo onto your dry head? Do you spread a thick white paste of unlubricated body wash all over your nether regions before even turning the shower on?
I hope to God you don’t.
So why would you put soap on your hands before water when washing them? It makes no sense!!!!!!!!
Okay, realistically, you’re probably still getting your hands somewhat clean if you apply soap, wet your hands and then lather. The real problem, though, is that you risk just rinsing the soap right off your hands before it has the chance to do its job. Soap doesn’t actually kill off any germs (unless it’s antibacterial) by itself. Soap doesn’t have to “lather” — i.e., it doesn’t need to form bubbles — but it does need to mix with the water so that it can be dispersed over your hands and pick up dirt and germs. It’s the friction between soap and water on your hands that actually does the cleaning. If you rinse off the soap before it can be rubbed around, you’re just being wasteful.
Both the CDC and W.H.O. state that the first step to washing your hands is to wet them first. They wouldn’t be wrong about this. Nothing more needs to be said on the matter. Just wet your hands first and then apply soap. It’s not that hard. Please just do it. Please.