When I was in my 20’s I laughed at people who used a paper towel to open the bathroom door. Then I went to nursing school and took microbiology. I don’t laugh anymore. Now I AM the one holding the paper towel. I’m not germophobic, I just have a healthy respect for germs and the damage they can do.
Coming from a nurse, here is how you should wash your hands:
- Turn on the faucet and get your hands wet.
- Get some soap and rub it all over your hands for about 20 seconds, working up a lather. Make sure to get in between your fingers and under your nails. Here’s a tip: singing “Happy Birthday” twice is about 20 seconds.
- At this point, you will be tempted to reach out and turn off the water, because of your public school education where you learned that wasting water is akin to beating baby seals. Don’t do it. Consciously remove your hands from the water, and reach for the towel/paper towels/air dryer. If the air dryer has a button, hit it with your elbow.
- After your hands are totally dry (sometimes it takes two cycles of the dryer), then you can use the paper towels to turn off the water. Voila! Your hands are clean!
This brings up a problem I’ve noticed in the last several years: the lack of paper towels in some bathrooms. Now, am I anti-hand dryer? No. Actually I really like the Xlerator hand dryer by Excel. If you’ve ever used one of those, it feels like the dryer is forcibly removing the water from your skin at Mach 2.
The problem exists when there are no paper towels, and the bathroom door opens IN. That means you could have been immaculate, washed your hands like a surgeon scrubbing in, and dried them off completely with the blow dryer, but the instant you touch that door handle, your hands are as dirty as if you hadn’t even washed at all, assuming someone else didn’t wash (and we know this happens).
My local library is trying to be as hygienic as possible: You go in the bathroom and the toilet flushes itself. The faucet and soap dispensers are both motion activated. The hand dryer is also motion activated. And then you look at the door handle.
Let me give you an illustration. Let’s say Jim is the first person to use the bathroom that day. Let’s say good ole Jim doesn’t wash his hands, and gets his germs all over the handle. Let’s say 50 people use the bathroom after him. Now how many of those people have clean hands? Zero.
What is the answer? If businesses are really serious about hand hygiene, they need to either make the doors open OUT, or provide some kind of entryway that requires no door, but still ensures privacy. Movie theaters do this. For now, I guess I’ll just keep grabbing some toilet paper to open the door, and throwing it on the floor near the door.