Let’s look at this scenario. A little boy runs down to the gate someone left open. He holds the gate, hops on to it and swings happily on his “imaginary Jeep”. His nanny leaves the shoe she was cleaning, wipes her hand on her dress and rushes to stop him before the lady of the house catches sight of the event. The mother hears the commotion, rushes out grabbing a chocolate bar to pacify him. Convincing her little Star, she makes a ritual of washing his hands quickly under the tap before he can eat. After all her nosy neighbour is watching. She doesn’t miss a chance to preach on modern mothers and their negligent ways each time the little boy falls ill, which is quite often. Familiar story? The touch on the gate, hand wiping on the dress, the eye wash of hand wash under the tap…any wonder why the boy falls sick all the time?

If we had listened to Florence Nightingale back then, we would have saved many million people from sickness and more than half the Covid deaths today.

You read right! That’s our lady with the lamp who is being referred to and credited with advocating handwashing habits for hygiene and prevention of infections.The father of hand hygiene however is Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor working in Vienna General Hospital.

Father or Nightingale, the fact remains that hand hygiene through handwashing isn’t everyone’s priority especially where the habit should begin – with the children. A study by WHO / UNESCO Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) reveals 43% of schools in the world do not have hand washing facilities – either the water or the soap or neither!

Closer home in India, 63% of children use only water to wash, if at all. Now that isn’t that appalling considering the Covid times we are going through!

So much is being spoken about on handwashing. Companies that make soaps, hand wash liquids, sanitisers, wipes and disinfectants and others with nothing related, are jumping in the fray to make the quick buck out of the situation.

Is it really safe? Safe for you, safe for others, safe for the environment?

Here are 6 things you must know and must share about handwashing that can save you and the planet along with you.

1. Water Vs Soap: Water will only wet and wash away dirt and other substances. The germs will happily stick on! There’s a truly fascinating bit of science involved in the way viruses cling to our skin. Water and a little bit of soap, is all it takes to break the surface membrane of these harmful microorganisms. So Soap wins. Opt for Eco friendly soaps like these handmade soaps and rest assured.

2. Soap Vs Sanitiser: Sanitiser does not kill all types of bacteria and viruses. They make them inactive and reduce the numbers. That too if they have 60% & above alcohol. Hand sanitizers work well in clinical settings, where hands are not heavily soiled or greasy but where people handle equipment, food or play sports — sanitizers can’t clean thoroughly enough.
Soap kills common illness-causing germs as cryptosporidium, noro, virus and Clostridium difficile. Soap also washes away bacteria and other viruses that are tougher than coronaviruses.

How does it do it? It cuts the fatty lipid layer that holds the virus together, even the dreaded corona virus. This causes disintegration of the virus and they can no longer function or reassemble. In the absence of water or soap, sanitiser is the best option. If you must, opt for eco-friendly sanitiser sprays and gel-based hand sanitisers.

3. Bar Soap Vs Liquid Hand Wash: Very convenient. Yes! they are – the liquid soaps. However, a 2007 study by Harvard Health found that the unique molecular structure of soap outperforms modern antibacterial hand wash while also protecting the skin’s microbiome. Liquid Hand wash is not good for the environment. They are petroleum based while bar soaps are mostly plant based. Another problem, Liquid hand wash comes in plastic dispensers and refill pouches.
People use 6 times more liquid soap than bar soap to wash their hands and that’s that much more chemicals into the earth and ocean.
Bar Soaps serve us better and the environment too. There are a few exceptions such as BubbleNut Wash liquid hand wash and hand wash refill.

4. Handmade natural Soap Vs Mass made chemical Soaps: This one, our favourite! Commercial soaps are just chemical cocktails, synthetic ingredients, cheap fragrances and can cause irritation to your skin. They are often made with chemical detergents, hardeners and synthetic lathering agents. It harms the planet as seeps into water and soil.
On the other hand, handmade soap created with natural oils, liquid and lye does not contain these harsh ingredients. Detergents strip your skin of their natural oils which can leave your skin feeling dry and tight. Natural soap is made with organic, plant based biodegradable ingredients like natural carrot and turmeric soap, with oils and glycerine. Moreover, they come in eco-friendly non plastic packaging that saves us from one time use wrappers, clogging the earth. Some great Eco soaps such as ayurvedic and organic soaps available online, help use both in safety and going green. You may use a mineral oil based hand cream to offset dryness from non-glycerine soaps.

5. Air drying Vs Towel drying Vs Tissue drying: Air drying and tissue drying have similar impact but for the energy vs paper wastage. Towels need to be clean as they reused through the day and can have viruses stay on for hours on the surface. Bamboo tissues and towels are recommended for safe use and eco friendliness. Here are a few suggestions: reusable kitchen rolls, hand towels, tissue rolls.

6. Six Steps of Hand Washing in 20 secs: Wet with water, Lather with soap, Rub together, Scrub – between and all around, Rinse completely and Dry gently.

Eco Tip: Suggested soaps can be first used for bathing and then shifted to hand wash dish when it gets smaller.

Final Eco Verdict: Hand wash with natural handmade soap bar and be a Green Mitr!

PS: Check out these links for more Eco friendly Hand washing products and accessories.

Ancient Living Daily Bath needs (Handmade soaps) – 100 gm each
Soulflower Cleansing Sandalwood Soap, 150g Pure Natural & Coldprocess Scrub for glowing & clear skin
Biotique Bio Papaya Revitalizing Tan-Removal Scrub, 235g
looms & weaves – 5 Natural Vetiver (Khus) Bath Scrubber with Plastic Free Cotton Cover