Handwashing Works With Hot or Cold Water

Glen Mclaughlin
June 3, 2017

Washing your hands in hot water may be utterly pointless as scientists say cold water is just as effective to kill germs.

Just a short rub of the hands made a major difference the study, published in the Journal of Food Protection, found.

Water at 15C was as good as water at 37.7C, and antibacterial soap was no better than normal soap, researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey found.

Analysts gathered 20 volunteers, asking them to wash their hands, which were covered in bugs, 20 times each in 59-, 79- and 100-degree Fahrenheit water with varying amounts of soap. No matter the amount of soap or the water temperature, the amount of bacteria removed when washing was the same, reports the BBC.

"Whether you choose the bar of soap, whether you use a plain soap or whether you use an antimicrobial soap, the most important thing is to wash your hands", says Professor Schaffner.

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"People need to feel comfortable when they are washing their hands, but as far as effectiveness, this study shows us that the temperature of the water used didn't matter", said Donald Schaffner, a specialist in food science at the university.

Twenty individuals were asked to participate in the handwashing experiments wherein the research team contaminated the participants' hands with harmless bacteria (nonpathogenic E. coli) prior to washing their hands. For the temperature of water used in handwashing to be hot enough to kill germs, she stated that "it would burn".

The findings are important, the authors say, because the Food and Drug Administration's guidelines for restaurants and food establishments recommend that plumbing systems deliver water at 100 degrees for hand washing.

"When you want to decontaminate your hands by washing them, the soap chemically detaches the dirt and the organisms, which then come off after you rinse them", she said. Just make sure to wash your hands.

Their guidance focuses on rubbing hands together in various ways to make sure each surface of each hand is clean. The only difference was in the energy that was used for heating up the water. Those guidelines now recommend that plumbing systems at food establishments and restaurants deliver water at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for handwashing. "But for the time being, I don't see the recommendations changing but I'm hoping that this study will lead to more in-depth stories that can give us even stronger evidence that could lead us to changing our current recommendations".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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