Credit: © Angelov / Fotolia

Credit: © Angelov / Fotolia

Cold or hot: Does water temperature matter for handwashing?

The flu season is upon us and handwashing remains one of the most preventive thing to do to kill germs. Cold or hot: Does water temperature matter for handwashing?

Washing your hands is one of the most important steps you can take to preventing infections and reducing the spread of germs.

It has been widely believed for decades that hot water helps get rid of germs better when hand washing.

However, a new study from Rutgers-New Brunswick found that cool water actually removes the same amount of bacteria as hot.

People need to feel comfortable when they are washing their hands but as far as effectiveness, this study shows us that the temperature of the water used didn’t matter,” said Donald Schaffner, distinguished professor and extension specialist in food science.

In the Rutgers study, high levels of a harmless bacteria were applied to the hands of 21 participants multiple times of the course of the study, and they were asked to wash their hands with the following water temps: 60-degree, 79-degree or 100-degrees.

This study may have significant implications towards water energy, since using cold water saves more energy than warm or hot water,” said Schaffner. “Also we learned even washing for 10 seconds significantly removed bacteria from the hands.”

While the study didn’t not show a difference between types of soaps for killing bacteria, more studies need to be conducted to find which soaps are the most effective, said co-author Jim Arbogast, vice president of Hygiene Sciences and Public Health Advancements for GOJO.

This is important because the biggest public health need is to increase handwashing or hand sanitizing by foodservice workers and the public before eating, preparing food and after using the restroom,” Arbogast said.

The FDA is holding a conference in 2018 where the water temperature policy will be revisited.

I think this study indicates that there should be a policy change,” said Schaffner. “Instead of having a temperature requirement, the policy should only say that comfortable or warm water needs to be delivered. We are wasting energy to heat water to a level that is not necessary.”

The study was published in the Journal of Food Protection.

NOTE: Make sure you wash your hands a good 20-25 seconds all the way to your wrists.

Note: None of the information in our website is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. The content on our website is for educational purposes only.

FDA has banned antibacterial chemicals from soaps.
Antibacterial orange body wash.
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1. “Handwashing: Cool Water as Effective as Hot for Removing Germs.” Rutgers. Rutgers, 30 May 2017. Web. 31 May 2017.
2. “Quantifying the Effects of Water Temperature, Soap Volume, Lather Time, and Antimicrobial Soap as Variables in the Removal of Escherichia Coli ATCC 11229 from Hands.” Journal of Food Protection. Journal of Food Protection, n.d. Web. 31 May 2017.

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