By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We all know how to wash our hands, however, sometimes we don’t wash them. I see that often in public restrooms.

I was recently in a restaurant. I went to the restroom and while I was there, an employee came in and washed his hands. I noted three errors in his technique.

There is one useful rule when hand washing in public places. That rule is to not touch anything dirty with your clean hands. The important part is not washing your hands. It is what you touch with those hands after they are clean.

For example, in the physician’s office there are rules to hand washing.

You turn on the water. You wash your hands with soap for at least 15 seconds. That is about three times as long as most people do.

When you are finished, you dry your hands with a paper towel. Then you use that towel to turn the water off because the faucet handle is dirty.

You used your dirty hands to turn it on.

It should not be a lot different in a public restroom. Some of them have automatic faucets, which is good because there is not a dirty handle to turn off.

Some have automatic soap dispensers. That is not a huge issue. You will be washing your hands after touching the dispenser. You will not touch it again with clean hands.

After you have washed your hands there are several things to avoid touching to dirty them again. Ideally, you will have paper towels, however, it depends on the towel dispenser. If it is motion activated, you do not have to touch the dirty dispenser with your clean hands.

If it is one where the towels hang down to be ripped off the same thing is true.

However, some dispensers require you to push on a handle to dispense the towels. In those cases, you need to push on the handle before you wash your hands.

That will allow you to only touch the clean towel when you are finished.

Unless someone comes in after you and runs their hands through the water to steal your towel.

You then use the paper towel to turn off the dirty faucet if it is not automatic. You should then use the same paper towel to open the dirty door before discarding it into the trash.

That means that the only thing touching all the dirty surfaces is the paper towel.

For those restrooms with an air hand dryer, it is a little more complex. You still have to deal with turning off the faucet.

Logically speaking, any restroom with an air only hand dryer should have automatic faucets.

Otherwise they are forcing you to touch the dirty faucet with your clean hands.

In those situations, there is still the issue of opening the door that has a dirty handle. If the door pushes out, then you can push on an area that is likely to be little used. If you have to pull it open with a handle, then you are in trouble.

The best bet is to carry hand wipes or sanitizing solution with you. That way when you are through washing your hands, you can actually clean them.