Global health chiefs have hailed it as one of the most important ways to prevent catching COVID-19: regular and effective hand hygiene.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said hand-washing was also an act of solidarity because it reduces the risk of infecting other people in your community.
But what are the key tips and tricks, according to WHO, on good hand hygiene?
Good hand-washing: A step-by-step guide
1. The process should take between 40-60 seconds.
2. Wet hands with water.
3. Apply enough soap to cover the entirety of hand surfaces.
4. Rub your palms together, ensuring that lather builds up.
5. Put your right palm over your left hands, interlacing the fingers, ensuring between each finger is clean. Then put left over right.
6. Interlace your fingers with palm to palm.
7. Put the backs of fingers facing the opposing palm – ensuring you are cleaning your nails also.
8. Rotational rubbing of both thumbs.
9. Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards between clasped fingers on right palm then on left.
10. Rinse your hands thoroughly with water.
11. Use a single-use towel to dry your hands and use that towel to turn off the tap.
Do I have to wash my hands in hot water?
Both the CDC, UNICEF, and others, temperature is not an important factor when washing your hands, with soap being key.
According to the CDC: “The temperature of the water does not appear to affect microbe removal; however, warmer water may cause more skin irritation and is more environmentally costly.”
WHO also warns of skin irritation when using hot water to rinse your hands, warning against it.
Can I touch the tap to turn off the water?
It is important not to retouch the faucet in order to avoid recontamination – which is why using the disposable towel to turn off the faucet is important.
Can I keep my nails long?
WHO recommends against having long nails for hand hygiene. According to the CDC, it is important to also keep nails clean: “Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand, often in particularly high concentration under the nails, so the entire hand should be scrubbed”.
Why is soap so important?
The Irish Health Service (HSE), the CDC and others have detailed why soap is key in the fight against COVID-19.
According to the CDC: “soap and friction help lift dirt, grease, and microbes — including disease-causing germs — from skin so they can then be rinsed off of hands”.
A chemistry professor, Palli Thordarson, detailed why soap is so effective in a Twitter thread.
“The soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and ‘dies’, or rather, we should say it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive,” he said.
Speaking to Euronews, Dr Ciara Kelly, a physician and radio presenter, noted the importance of washing your hands, among other measures including social distancing, in order to “flatten the curve”.
“If you flatten the curve, you give health services a fighting chance of helping people, of saving lives.
“If we can slow the rate of the acceleration of case numbers, and our health service will cope better with the patients that come in and more lives will be saved.”