A study published in the Journal of Food Protection looking into the effectiveness of handwashing with cold water vs hot/warm found cold water just as effective at removing bacteria as hot/warm water.


Summary of the journal article: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317712.php

Journal article abstract: http://jfoodprotection.org/doi/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-16-370?code=fopr-site

Sign Up for E-News

Use this news

This study challenges the long held belief that warm/hot water is needed for handwashing to effectively remove bacteria. As it turns out, cold water works just as well and washing hands for as little as 10 seconds does a decent job.

As far as antibacterial soap goes, according to the results of this study, it wasn’t that much more effective than using regular soap. Given the rising problem with antibiotic resistant bacteria, it’s best to avoid using it.

We all know that handwashing helps prevent infections, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reminds us that:

Handwashing helps prevent diarrhea, respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections because:

Bacteria, viruses and other disease causing germs get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth without us realizing it when we touch our faces with our hands.

Bacteria, viruses and other disease causing germs from unwashed hands can get into
                      food and drinks when people prepare or consume them. Some can multiply in certain types
                      of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick – for example botulism
                      or salmonella.

                      Bacteria, viruses and other disease causing germs from unwashed hands can be transferred
                      to objects, like handrails, table tops, or toys, and then picked up by another person’s hands.

Handwashing not only keeps us individually healthier, it helps keep our communities healthier too.    

                               Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%
                               Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
                               Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%

Remember to wash your hands:

Before eating food

Before, during, and after preparing food

Before and after caring for someone who is sick

Before and after treating a cut or wound

After using the toilet

After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet

After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste

After handling pet food or pet treats

After touching garbage


To properly wash your hands, the CDC recommends the following:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. ...
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. ...
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

For more information:

Centers for Disease Control – How and When to Wash Your Hands

Mayo Clinic – Handwashing Do’s and Don’ts