Proof of why it’s essential to wash your hands properly: These amazing UV pictures show what really kills germs
- Good Health has used a special UV camera to test methods of hand washing
- Person rubbed on Glo Germ gel, which simulates how germs cling to your skin
- The whiter the hands are in the pictures under a UV light, the dirtier they are
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Is your hand-washing technique effective? Good Health used a special UV camera to test methods — from a quick ‘rinse and shake’ to more than the advised 20 seconds — to find out.
First our journalist rubbed on a gel known as Glo Germ, which simulates how germs cling to your skin.
The gel is clear but glows under UV light and contains particles the same size as germs such as coronavirus. The whiter the hands in these pictures, the dirtier they are — and the darker they are, the cleaner.
Before washing your hands germs on the hands show up as white underneath a UV light
QUICK RINSE AND SHAKE: Research suggests that up to a quarter of us only briefly rinse our hands, but as this picture shows, that is not enough. The rinse and shake doesn’t achieve much; after running your hands under the tap for three seconds, hands show up as glowing white under the camera — suggesting most of the germs have been left there
What about hand sanitisers?
Hand washing is always best for removing germs such as bacteria and viruses. But if soap and water is not available, the NHS recommends an alcohol-based sanitiser.
A sanitising foam or gel kills viruses, but the dead bugs stay on your hands.
That’s why you can’t use the Glo Germ gel we used in our above experiment to test it — it would show up as white even if the germs had been killed. Nevertheless, this is how to make the best use of your sanitiser:
- Ensure your hand sanitiser is more than 60 per cent alcohol (also marked as ethanol on the label) and ideally more than 70 per cent, as this is the strength required to kill viruses, according to Professor Mark Wilcox, a microbiologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
Alcohol destroys the protective outer membrane of the virus, causing it to break down rapidly — and the coronavirus is particularly susceptible.
‘Some people may be tempted to make their own, but that’s no good,’ said Professor Wilcox, because even strong spirits are usually only about 40 per cent.
- Use the gel every time your hands have been in contact with potentially contaminated surfaces — for example, after using public transport or going to the shops or any public place.
- Apply the gel and rub your hands together properly so that the gel is applied to all parts of your hands. That means getting right in between the fingers and thumbs, as well as covering the backs of the hands and each wrist.
- If you do have dry or sore hands from excessive hand washing, don’t plaster them in hand cream before applying the alcohol gel. The barrier will mean the alcohol may not come into full contact with germs lurking on the skin. Use the gel first and wait until it has dried, then apply your hand cream.
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