Washing Hands, Hot or Cold?

by (22684) Updated November 28, 2010 at 8:02 PM Created August 24, 2010 at 12:58 AM

So much else has been proven misguided, I was scalding my hands Today and said, ugh, I wonder if this is wrong too?

Does hot as you can stand it matter?

Is it just about friction?

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6 Replies

11363 · August 24, 2010 at 3:11 AM

You don't need hot water to wash your hands. Water that is hot enough to kill bacteria will also scald (burn) your skin.

Effective handwashing requires:

  1. Water--an adequate volume to remove bacteria
  2. Plain soap, which is a surfactant--it allows water to penetrate the nooks and crannies of your skin, and makes the skin slippery so bacteria can be removed. Antibacterial soap is no more effective at cleaning your skin than regular soap, and also can lead to bacterial resistance problems.
  3. Friction--rub your hands together to remove dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells.
  4. Time--it takes a while to thoroughly clean all the surfaces of your hands, fingers and wrists.

Here's a how-to guide: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hand-washing/HQ00407

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an effective, but not very paleo alternative-- http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hand-washing/HQ00407/NSECTIONGROUP=2

20469 · August 24, 2010 at 3:34 AM

I'd just wash normally, ie with comfortable water, and then not worry about it. Some scientists now think excessive germ avoidance can actually contribute to autoimmune tendencies. If you are healthy and eating healthy, then a tiny portion of germs should be easily defeated by your immune system before they could get far.

But Stephen, you are right in that the more things turn out to be stupid advice, the more you may find yourself questioning, researching, and finding out that even more advice is also stupid. It's a very slippery slope! The more I find out, the more I see that more portions of my life are lead in ways contrary to what is commonly advised. And I've almost become a google checking addict!

18619 · November 28, 2010 at 8:02 PM

I am anti handwashing unless I have been working with raw food. I'm weird that way and it really bothers my mom, but I don't get sick very often. I am also don't do the anti-bacterial stuff at all. I like germs. They make me stronger most of the time.

1397 · August 24, 2010 at 3:09 AM

I'm pretty sure, what the hot water does is speed up the action of mixing the amphilic soap molecules with dirt and such. It would also make any lipids more liquid. I would just go with as warm water as you feel like, not scalding.

Here's a bit more info:


836 · November 28, 2010 at 3:18 PM

Of course hot water is irrelevant. I mean, just integrate it logically with what you know about the rest of the world. Doesn't bacteria grow more easily in the warm water of the tropics? In biology class in high school, didn't you grow bacteria in a dish of agar kept at warm temperatures? The answer has nothing to do with Paleo, just logic.

Unless of course you're scrubbing a greasy pot. I would recommend warm-hot water if your hands are covered in meat fat or something. In that case heating up the lipids makes it more likely to wash off your hands.

2393 · August 24, 2010 at 11:07 AM

There was a study within the last year which showed that water temperature is irrelevent as long as soap is used properly (15 seconds, etc). I thought I had bookmarked it, but I can't find it.

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