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October 2019

Is your handwashing routine making you sick?

Written by Bakang Kganyago
Health and Safety

The 15th of October is Global Handwashing Day: an annual opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of proper hand washing habits to help prevent the spread of infection and reduce sickness.

Handwashing is an easy way to prevent illnesses and cross-contamination, however, we take a quick dive into whether your handwashing routine could be making you sick. We look at whether too much handwashing could be making you sick, whether frequent hand sanitising is bad, and why it is so important to dry your hands after washing.

Is too much hand washing making you sick?

We believe that it is absolutely crucial to wash your hands before and after certain activities - such as before preparing food and after using the bathroom. However, in one of our previous blogs, 5 reasons you should let your children play in the dirt, we discuss the idea that overuse of hand sanitiser may be causing children to lose the ability to develop resistance to bacteria. Further research suggests that in developing children, the immune system needs to be strengthened by fighting off contaminants found in everyday life and that for children, there really can be such a thing as too clean.

Is frequent hand sanitising bad?

Hand sanitisers are antibacterial solutions that eliminate almost all bacteria, but did you know that frequent use may make you sick? This is due to the fact that hand sanitises don’t discriminate when eliminating bacteria: they also remove bacteria that would have been good for building your body’s immune system. 

Additionally, research suggests that hand sanitisers may even be responsible for the rise in antibiotic resistance. Microbiologist Jonathan Eisen of the University of California once stated: “even though they generally do not contain standard antibiotics, when microbes become resistant to some of the sanitisers this can make it easier for them to be resistant to more important antibiotics.” 

Not to say hand sanitisers are bad, they are good when used correctly. We recommend considering which activities you’ve done prior to use and only use it when absolutely necessary.

Why is it important to dry your hands?

Did you know that if you wash your hands but do not dry them, your damp hands are 1000 times more likely to spread bacteria? This is due to the fact that it is easier for bacteria to spread via wet hands than dry ones. Furthermore, damp hands are known to provide a conducive environment for bacterial growth. As such we recommend that drying your hands be as important a part of your handwashing routine as the actual washing.

Proper handwashing practices are important as many diseases can be prevented by following the correct handwashing steps (download your comprehensive handwashing guide here). These steps include: wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry. Additionally, knowing when to wash - as well as HOW to wash your hands - is just as important to your health.

Download our hand hygiene posters and ensure everyone in your home or office are using good hand hygiene practices, or contact us for a comprehensive hand hygiene solution. 

Contact us


Our goal for Global Handwashing Day 2019: Initial branches all over the country are approaching schools to educate children on the importance of good hand hygiene practices.

What are you doing for Global Handwashing Day? We'd love to hear from you! 

Share photos of your initiative with us on your preferred social media channel - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter - and use the hashtag #GlobalHandwashingDay and tag Initial in the post!

Bakang Kganyago

Bakang Kganyago

Bakang is a Digital Marketing Executive for Rentokil Initial. A germaphobe at heart, he's passionate about learning and sharing insights on how to defeat the enemy we cannot see. Join his journey as he writes about the impact of germs in our daily lives.

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