Please wash, and dry, your hands

1st of July 2020
Please wash, and dry, your hands

VSR’s John Griep on how crucial hand hygiene is.

Although everyone has an opinion about the measures to be taken to combat Coronavirus, luckily there is one body in the Netherlands offering clear guidelines: the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Staff at this independent government body are working overtime to keep citizens, mayors, hospital directors and the cleaning industry informed of developments.

The VSR is also following its coverage closely. I frequently read the question: “What can I do to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19?” on the website. At the top of the list of measures is, wash your hands regularly.

According to RIVM, this is the most important measure you can take, along with ‘cough and sneeze into your elbow’, ‘use paper tissues’ and ‘don’t shake hands’. RIVM calls these measures ‘simple’. And yes, it is that simple to prevent the spread of the virus.

But there’s more to it than that. Holding your hands under the tap for a short while and – even worse! – failing to dry them (or not for long enough) actually promotes the transmission of micro-organisms! VSR researched the science and concluded:

• Washing your hands with soap and water and thoroughly drying them reduces the number of foreign, potentially pathogenic viral particles and bacteria by a factor of 100 to 1,000.
• It takes rubbing your hands over each other for at least half a minute to achieve this; then rinsing and finally drying them.
• Use liquid soap (a soap dispenser); a used bar of soap might actually boost the transmission of viruses.
• Using alcohol-based hand gel is an alternative, but is only suitable for hands that have not been handling bulky waste. It turns out that it’s certainly not any more effective than washing your hands with soap and water.
• As washing never fully removes or kills pathogenic micro-organisms, drying your hands is essential. If your hands stay wet after washing, that can actually promote the transmission of micro-organisms.
• Of the traditional hand-drying methods - paper towels, textiles or warm air dryers - paper towels are the most hygienic. Paper is effective at removing bacteria, is not a source of bacteria itself and does not have to be a hygiene risk if enough clean rubbish bins are present.
• Damage to the skin is not a risk as long as soft paper is used.
• After use the paper can also be used to prevent reinfection from taps or buttons. It’s important the paper and paper dispenser are well matched; the dispenser has no buttons; it is cleaned daily; and, of course, it is refilled on time.
• So, besides washing your hands thoroughly, do make sure to dry them well and fully, ideally with soft paper towels!

Finally, I call upon you to pass this information around in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Make use of your role as an expert in this field, involving and advising your client on it too. This way, we can once again demonstrate that, as cleaning professionals, not only do we provide a clean desk or a hygienic hospital room, we’re also an indispensable partner in the health of building users. And that means in the welfare of the entire organisation.


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