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Handwashing: the Best Way to Wash and When to Sanitize

Get ready — we’re heading into prime cold and flu season!

Here are some hand-washing tips to help reduce your odds of being one of the 5 to 20% of Americans who come down with flu each year.

The Dreaded Spread

People with flu can “share” it with others up to six feet away. Flu viruses spread mainly through tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or be deposited onto surfaces or objects.

Wash Your Hands

“Hands down” this is the number one prevention for cold and flu. When you touch your mouth, eyes or nose after touching door handles, shared pens, phones, etc. you could be setting yourself up for the sniffles.

Flu viruses can live on surfaces from two to eight hours! And flu virus can spread before someone starts feeling symptoms.

Best Way to Wash

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Avoid Antibacterial Soaps

According to the FDA, currently there is no evidence that over-the-counter antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing properly with plain soap and water.

Moreover, many conventional antibacterial soap products contain active ingredients, such as triclosan and triclocarban, which may carry potential safety and environmental risks. For example, there are indications that triclosan may contribute to bacterial resistance. It’s also suspected of endocrine disruption effects — a concern since triclosan has been shown to get inside the body. Furthermore, triclosan can enter streams, rivers and lakes where it negatively affects aquatic life.

At Whole Foods Market, we do not allow triclosan or triclocarban in any of the body care products we sell.

Use Hand Sanitizer When in a Pinch

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. They aren’t as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Make sure to check the label on your sanitizer to use the correct amount. If you use too little, it may not be effective.

The hand sanitizers we sell do not include triclosan, which is unacceptable to our Quality Standards. 

Is hand-washing your “go-to” defense? What other tips can you share to keep from sharing cold and flu germs?