Hands and feet are two areas that are often overlooked in proper hygiene. Sure we all know how to wash our hands and we do wash our feet in the shower each day but are we cleaning them thoroughly and effectively? Clean hands can be crucial to overall health – research shows that good handwashing is one of the best forms of defence against a host of diseases and illnesses, from the common cold to more serious conditions like meningitis, hepatitis A and infectious diarrhoea.
The Correct Way to Wash Hands
Most people actually often forget to wash their hands and when they do, they do it so incorrectly that it is actually useless and they might as well not have bothered! The following is the correct way to wash your hands:
- Wet your hands with warm running water (not cold).
- Lather up using soap – while antibacterial soaps are popular, normal soap is perfectly effective if it is used correctly. The important thing is to make sure that you rub your hands vigorously for at least 10 seconds AWAY from the flow of water. This is where most people fail as they simply lather some soap on and then quickly rinse it off. Soap lather needs to be rubbed on your hands for at least 10 seconds to have enough effect. You can ensure this by singing a short song, such as ‘Happy Birthday’. Make sure you lather all sides: front, back, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Rinse your hands well under the warm running water, letting the water run back down into the sink and not down your elbows.
- Dry your hands thoroughly using a clean towel or paper towel, if you are in a public place.
- If you are worried about the drying effects of soap, apply a hand cream liberally to your hands after drying.
Cleaning Your Feet
Compared to the amount of time we spend on our faces, hands and body, most of us ignore our feet and do not give them the care that they deserve. It is no wonder that so many of us suffer from a variety of foot problems such as athlete’s foot, toe fungus and verrucas as well the universal problem of foul foot odour. Ironically, many of these conditions can be avoided with a little bit of care and attention given to your feet. Cleaning your feet correctly is one of the simplest preventative measures and here are some tips to help you:
- Wash your feet every day, using soapy water. If you have excessively sweaty feet, you may want to consider doing this twice a day, morning and evening, and using antibacterial soap.
- Be careful of using water that is too hot, as this can cause excessive sweating in itself.
- Follow the steps for hand washing – lather the feet thoroughly and make sure you rub between the toes, on the soles, heels, on the tops of feet and around the ankles.
- Rinse thoroughly in clean, warm water and you may like to dip them in cold water for a refreshing finish.
- Use a clean and dry towel to dry your feet – remember that diseases like athlete’s foot can be spread through contact so always use a clean, personal towel to dry your own feet.
- For those with excessively sweaty feet, wiping feet over with an astringent and then lightly dusting with talcum powder may help. There are also many products on the market designed to help those with excessive sweating and foot odour problems.
- Always use clean socks and change them at least once a day.
- Try and keep your feet dry during the day and try not to use the same shoes daily – rotate different pairs of footwear through different days of the week.
If you have calloused feet, use a pumice stone or foot file to gently slough off a little bit each day. Do not scrape your feet raw in one long session! Make sure your feet are wet and work in small circles against your skin. You can also apply a lotion containing alpha-hydroxyl acids over night to increase the exfoliating benefits from your daily sloughing. The best treatment for callouses is prevention so make sure you only wear properly-fitting shoes and avoid shoes in styles that are very tight or cramp your feet. As above, rotate your footwear and especially avoid wearing the same sandals several days in a row as the straps are more likely to cause callouses.
Keeping Your Nails Clean
Nails are simple to look after and a bit of care and attention can prevent unsightly fungal growths and nail infections. Most nails will be cleaned in the course of good hand washing or feet cleaning. However, if your nails are very dirty, then you will need to use a bristled nail brush to remove any grime or debris lodged underneath the nail or around the cuticles. Make sure you remove old nail polish thoroughly with a good nail-polish remover and try to give your nails at least 24 hours each week free from any polish (or one week in each month) so that the cells can breathe. Keeping nails short can also help to keep them clean as there will be less dirt and grime build-up underneath the nails.