Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Handwashing in the 21st Century

Another in a series of posts from the world's 4th most respected expert on restroom etiquette... I write these not only to inform and entertain, but also to spark discussion on these topics. Often some of you might have ideas or habits that I find useful in the restroom. And vice versa.

Today's topic is proper handwashing in public restrooms, from a germophobic viewpoint. After all, some people refer to me as a germophobe aficianado. Well, except for they use freak or lunatic in place of aficianado. The four phases to proper public restroom handwashing are the entrance, washing, drying, and the exit. We'll look at each of the four in depth in this post. Did you have any doubt?

Upon entering the facilities, it is important to notice two things. The type of faucet, and the method or methods of hand drying that are available. If unable to determine the faucet is hands-free (i.e. motion detecting), you will need to make arrangements for turning on the faucet without actually touching it. While this may initially sound tricky, it is usually not that difficult. The preferred method is to take some paper towels, if available, and use them to turn on the water.

Washing is actually the easiest of the four phases. Simply soap up, preferably with warm water. You should also use a paper towel to avoid touching the soap dispenser. Once you are done washing and rinsing, leave the water running.

The key to washing, and maybe to this entire post is this. From the time you are done washing your hands until the time you exit the facilities, no part of your skin should touch anything in that restroom except for a paper towel!

And now it's time to dry off. The paper towel you tear off when entering the restroom may serve a four-fold purpose. Turning on the faucet, dispensing soap, turning off the faucet, and last but not least, it is your germ-shield for getting more paper towels to dry your hands. Be sure to go ahead and roll a few paper towels down before you wash. Then, all you have to do is tear them off when you're ready to dry.

Some restrooms have the automatic paper towel dispensers that do not require you to turn a handle or pull down a lever. I call these restrooms... Xanadus. Once you locate such a restroom, commit it to memory. And go back there, again and again.

For restrooms with hand dryers that are not motion activated, you will need to use a paper towel, tissue, or your elbow to turn on the dryer. Assuming you are wearing long-sleeves of course.

There is one additional situation we have yet to discuss. And that is, a restroom with no paper towels available. I call these restrooms sanitary nightmares. Or, Sheol. There are several options to handle this most unpleasant of circumstances.

Some people choose to venture into a stall and use tissue in place of the paper towel. Now on this topic, I speak not by commandment, but of my own personal preference. Since I never sit in the public stalls anyway, it follows that I would not use the tissue in them.

However, if you do, be sure to tear off and throw away the first several yards of tissue. This helps to ensure that no one else has touched it and that it hasn't been exposed to the bacteria-charged aura of the restroom. This also goes for the first paper towel or two. Tear them off and throw them away. Then you will will be more likely to get a clean, fresh one.

In lieu of paper towels, others might use the sleeve of their shirt or some other bit of clothing. This is acceptable since (1)you really have no other viable options and (2)you can always burn your clothes later. Still others, when presented with a restroom with no paper towels, simply leave and look for a better-equipped comfort station down the road.

Now it's time to make your escape. Before throwing away the paper towels, or whatever you have used to dry off with, you should use them to open the bathroom door. I know, you used them to dry off, now you're touching the door handle with them. Gross, right? But that's OK. Other people have done much worse in there. Trust me. This is one of the million reasons you don't want to touch the handle with your virgin hands in the first place.

Once you open the door, then and only then may you dispose of the paper towels. While using your foot to hold the door open, put the paper towels in the trash can. If the trash can is located too far away, then just throw the paper towels towards it. If you miss, you miss. This is not your fault. It's their fault for putting the trash can too far away from the restroom door. Get as close as you can. That's all you can do.

And there you have it. You're out of the restroom and on your way to enjoy the rest of your day. Another successful handwashing job completed. See how simple that was? That's how I roll. Or, wash.

I hope you have found this entry helpful. By following these and other simple rules, you too will be well on your way to a habitually neat, clean, and very normal existence.

"You are an obsession. You're my obsession..."


  1. Try doing all of this while keeping a purse on your shoulder and shopping bags in one hand. Boys. You have no clue!

  2. Purell is a Godsend5/02/2006 10:29:00 PM

    Does not happen.
    I can't trust the paper towels.
    Plus, do you have any idea how many microbes get on papertowels just from being in the bathroom??
    Even in the dispenser.
    There's too much airflow capability.

    I'm telling you, the way to go is sanitizer with you ALWAYS.
    They even have handy little bungee cord thingees to hook them to things.
    Put one on your belt loop, Clint Eastwood.

  3. Actually it might be easier for women as we do carry bags and thus have room for an array of products that can be used in both emergencies or as added sanitary production. But then women are used to carrying personal care products.

  4. I just do my best to try and avoid public restrooms if at all possible.
    Problem solved.
    But, it leads to other problems.

  5. LMAO. OMG, I do the same thing!!! I'm a big germaphobe when it comes to public restrooms. I will flush the toilet with my foot because the thought of my hand touching that lever where other poopy hands have touched it makes me gag.

    My butt also doesn't touch the toilet when I'm using it...I hover like a helicopter. I have thighs of steel. If I have to go #2, I just won't use the bathroom, I will frickin' go home to do that. (Remember my post from last week. LOL)

    I prefer cold water. I once heard (don't know how true it is, but the logic appealed to me) that when you use warm water, you're actually enlarging the pores in your hands enough to allow germs to enter past that first layer of skin.

    What boggles my mind are the people who "Wash" their hands by running their hands under water for 3 seconds before exiting the restroom. You may as well NOT wash your hands because you have done absolutely nothing except maybe pick up more germs from touching the sink.

  6. So what do you do when you run into one of those towel machines that is just a towel that you just pull into a new position? Or if they're out of towels? Do guys use seat covers?

    I almost got a ticket once, trying to get home from taking a friend to the airport so I wouldn't have to use a public restroom. The cop let me off, and "escorted" me to the Exxon, where I pretended to get out of the car. When he drove off, the door was shut and I was off for home again.

  7. Can I ask Carmen a question? Did you actually tell the cop that you had to go potty?? Or did you make up some other excuse? I'm just curious if that may just work on getting out of a ticket... *interesting*

  8. Groovie: LOL Point taken. I hate going into restrooms like if I have a shopping bag or camera or something.

    Purell is soo not: That's all well and good, but someone told me that Dateline or 20/20 or someone like that did a study, and found that hand sanitizer was not that thorough.

    I want the stuff doctor's use to wash up with before they operate on someone, or the stuff people have to wash up with before they go in to see the Bubble Boy. That's the kind of clean I need.

    Pia: Good point. What am I supposed to do, cram a big bottle of sanitizer in my front pocket.

    Sherry: I try and avoid them as well. Sometimes you gotta go though.

    Chickadee: Hover like a helicopter? lol There's a visual I won't be losing anytime soon.

    I have very similar rules to yours. Warm water just feels cleaner to me. I thought the heat might kill more germs. But you might be right.

    And I always heard you're supposed to sing the national anthem while you wash your hands. Preferably in English. But "Oh Canada" might work, too.

    Carmen: Oh, I'm glad you brought those up. I hate those!! Those are the grossest things. I always feel like someone has already used them.

    Groovie: No, you can't :)

  9. I would prefer to not use public facilities, but alas after childbirth it is unavoidable for me. My lovely Darly has learned that we always have to take "Mommy potty." She on the other hand will hold it forever to avoid using public facilities...she's not a germaphobe...she hates the noise (but she's in there with me anyway, fingers in her ears the entire time.)

    So the hand cleaning deal...yeah, we hate the hand dryers. And carry the hand sanitizer at all times. I hear that you can get pocket packs of it. We follow all your hand cleaning steps and for good measure use the sanitizer as a follow up before any hand/face interaction.

  10. So I'm guessing you're not one of those guys who thinks it's perfectly acceptable to pee in the shower.

    When someone revives Bone please let him know that was just a joke from a gazillion years ago - at Bob Newharts Friar's Club roast Buddy Hacket declared Bob to be such a classy guy, he get's out of the shower to pee.

    That joke has haunted me low these many years.

  11. Here's something to ponder, why do the doors always swing inwards in men's rooms? Wouldn't it make more sense to have all men's room doors swing outwards. Thus never having to grab that nasty, germ-riddled handle.

  12. Renee: Proper handwashing plus hand sanitizer equals a healthy, happy life for you. Congratulations.

    Sassenach: I'm glad you could finally unburden yourself. Of the joke. Not in my shower :)

    Big Man: Interesting observation. I like the way you think. If you ever run for public office, I'll vote for you.

    Another thing I have always found disturbing is that sign in the restroom that says "Employees are required to wash their hands."

    It frightens me that they have to be reminded.

  13. You have to be careful with those hand sanitizers though. Studies have been done and show that there are some germs the human body needs in order to help build up antibodies to fight off other germs. If you get rid of all germs, you actually increase your chances of getting sick.

    Sort of the same thing with drinking water. You should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day (something like 8 10 oz cups of water, actually). It helps flush toxins out of your system. But if you overdrink water, you flush out your system of all the healthy stuff too.

  14. George says: "It's all pipes!"

  15. I'm sending you a gross ton of anti-bac hand washing stuff. You crack me up!

  16. Xinh: Well, I don't know about all that. But the germs my body needs are definitely not the ones located on the door handle of the men's restroom :)

    Renee: Haha. That episode was on here tonight!

    Jerry: "Do the medical journals mention anything about standing in a pool of someone else's urine?"

    Carnealian: That should last me for a month, at least :)

  17. I prefer to never use a public restroom, but if I must I try to ensure its a Nordtrom... the only way to go.

    I never touch anything, however, even in there oh-so-upkept restrooms.

    I heard that using the antibacterial gel causes more problems than benefits... its actually not good for your body.

  18. I had no idea that personal hygeine in a public restroom was so involved! Remind me never to share my process with you - you'll never read my blog again. ;-)

  19. Though I'm pretty particular about handwashing and general hygiene in a public restroom, nothing irks me more than finding hair strewn about by the sink.
    The thought of it right now has me shuddering. Yuck.

  20. NMA OCG: I agree. I avoid the public restrooms whenever possible.

    Lizzie: I've got some literature that will change your life. Please don't tell me you touch the faucets with your skin. Please. Just don't tell me. I don't wanna know.

    Heather B: Yes, I hate finding a little curly on the urinal. How does that even happen? It just detaches and then floats on the wind like a freakin' dandelion spore?

  21. I'm months late on this, but after you left me this link I just had to read it. Just how long does it take YOU to make a trip to the bathroom, Bone?!?!?!? Cripes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And can you please explain why you can't touch the faucet as you are turning it on? You're going to wash it right off...