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Handwashing: Does the water temperature matter?

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Handwashing: Does the water temperature matter?

Many people believe that you need warm or hot water when washing hands, so that you remove more germs. Recently, there have even been some doctors in interviews who have suggested that people should use warmer or hot water when washing their hands to help fight the spread of COVID-19 and other germs. But does the water temperature make a difference when it comes to fighting germs? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that it does not.

According to the CDC, it doesn't matter if you wash your hands in cold or warm water.  They report that warmer water is no more effective at removing microbes than cold water is when washing your hands. In fact, their recommendation advocates for cooler water, because they say that warmer water can irritate the skin, and it's more environmentally friendly. The warmer water can strip away your skin's natural oils more, causing irritation and dry skin. 

Not only is there no added benefit to using warmer or hot water to wash your hands, but they also report that there is no benefit to using antimicrobial soap compared to plain soap. Both of these issues, water temperature and antibacterial soap, were backed up by a 2017 study that was published in the Journal of Food Protection, where scientists compared the results of handwashing with antibacterial soap and plain soap. They concluded that antibacterial soap was not more effective than plain soap, and water temperature did not have a significant effect on the reduction of bacteria during hand washing.

What does matter when it comes to handwashing is the time spent washing them. Research shows there is a significant impact when it comes to the length of time you spend washing your hands. The reduction in amount of germs present on the hands comes with washing them for at least 20 seconds. 

There you have it, Volusia County Moms! Children may shy away from handwashing if they are taught they need to use warmer or hot water. The temperature of the water makes no difference, but the time spent lathering the hands does. Get them focused on the right thing so they develop good handwashing  habits that help to protect their health, and the health of those around them. 

Read additional information on this topic here.

- Jacqueline Bodnar

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