Shocking experiment shows your hands may be dirtier than you think

Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 17:18:21-05

NORFOLK, Va. - The majority of people believe their hands are clean. They'll quickly wash them after using the bathroom or squirt on some hand sanitizer on the go.

While doing these activities are important, experts say you're probably still not doing enough to kill the lingering bacteria.

To see what hand-washing techniques work the best, News 3 completed the Clean Hands Experiment with Dr. Brian Martin at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

"We want to make sure our hands are as clean as we possibly can. [They should be] free of those germs and viruses so when we touch our face we don't introduce them," Martin says.

First you coat your hands with Glo Germ gel, which dries clear. When you place your hands underneath a black light, the gel simulates how much bacteria has been left behind.

We tried four different experiments: washing your hands with soap and water for twenty seconds, washing your hands with soap and water for six seconds, washing your hands with just water and using only hand sanitizer.

At the beginning of all experiments, the hands involved were very dirty underneath the black light.

Using soap and water for 20 seconds cleaned the hands the best, which is the recommended time. Experts say singing 'Happy Birthday' will be approximately enough time to have your hands underneath the faucet.

If you aren't able to wash your hands multiple times a day, Martin says hand sanitizer is the second best option because it kills 99.9% of the germs.

It's recommended you avoid shaking hands with others and touching your face, mouth and eyes. Martin says you should also opt to use paper towels instead of wiping your hands on your pants.

Every little bit can protect you from getting sick.

"Wouldn't you rather clean your hands or wash your hands properly several times a day then to spend 2 weeks with the flu or two weeks with a virus that you can't quite shake?" Martin says.