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Clean hands? A Billings health expert brings out the black light to test washing technique

Posted at 8:24 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-07 11:24:18-05

With national concerns rising about infectious disease, health experts in Billings are recommending what our mothers taught us.

Wash their hands. And make sure you wash them well, say officials at RiverStone Health.

Whether you sing happy birthday or the alphabet, 20 seconds washing your hands correctly could help save lives, they say.

“Warm running water, want to wet your hands," said Marilyn Tapia, environmental director for RiverStone Health. "Get some sort of soap. It doesn’t have to be anti-bacterial soap. Any kind of soap is acceptable. And then you really want to take a while. A good 20 seconds, make sure you’re getting the backs of the hands, all the way up to the wrists, the nail beds, the knuckles.”

Billings health experts show the best way to wash your hands

Tapia teaches those in the food industry how to wash their hands. And to illustrate how well it works, she uses glow powder.

“It’s to simulate the presence of germs or other kind organisms that might be on my hands," she said. "This glows under black light... So a lot of people when they wash their hands, they just turn on the water, maybe they get a little soap. They rub them they call it good to go."

She showed what happens when washing incorrectly.

Washing for 20 seconds took away more of the the glow powder.

“A lot less of that fluorescent powder on my hands now," she said. "You want to turn off the faucet either with your elbow or use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.”

Tapial also has some advice if you're in a public restroom: After you're done washing and drying your hands, it's a good idea to use your towel to open the door.

“About 30 percent of people are said to not wash their hands after they use the bathroom," Tapia said. "So you know there’s been a lot of dirty hands on that door handle... No matter what you touch, if you’re washing your hands, you’re removing the germs and the debris from your hands."

She recommends cleaning your phone with something safe such as what you would use for your eye glasses.

Tapia said washing is the best, but if a hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol will help if used for 20 seconds.