How’s Your Hand Hygiene?
October 1, 2010 12:00 AM by Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD | Comment
It’s no news that washing your hands knocks down cold and flu germs. Of course, given that 15% of us still don’t wash our hands after using a restroom, maybe it is news! But here’s a new twist: How you dry your mitts counts, too. It could decide whether you win the latest round of germ warfare, restroom edition — or spread bad bugs around faster than the runaway monkey in Outbreak.

Best drying method in restrooms? Paper towels. Using them reduces bacteria counts on your hands up to 60%, according to researchers. Next best? Patiently holding your hands still — no rubbing! — under a hot-air hand dryer for at least 30 seconds; this cuts bad bugs down 20% to 40%. Yes, it feels like an eternity. Most men dry for just 17 seconds, women for a paltry 13.

Worst ways? Skimping on drying time, because moisture carries bacteria. Or rubbing your hands together under the dryer; friction brings bacteria in your skin to the surface, which might even increase germs. Don’t even think about wiping ’em on your jeans!