These days with bird flu and the high price of oil attracting all the attention it's more important than ever to understand when and how to wash. The important principles can be explained quickly. For example, you should wash your hands:
- Before and after handling food. This is particularly important when holding soup.
- Before and after eating food. I know what you're thinking and if you go right from handling food to eating food don't go skipping a hand-washing. You should wash your hands twice between handling and eating. You may want to do a touch-up between each bite, too. It may be easier to go hungry.
- After going to the bathroom, but before leaving it. This leads to the problem of how you get out of the bathroom without touching the door handle, considering you know full well how many people never wash their hands but grab it. Find a reasonably clean corner of the bathroom -- possibly in the sink -- and curl up and whimper until someone else enters, then run through quickly.
- After coughing or sneezing into your hand, or blowing your nose. This is necessitated by the common error people make of coughing, sneezing, or boogering into their hands. It is in fact recommended that you lift your arm and cough, sneeze, or booger into the inside of your elbow, according to a panel of American Medical Association doctors who were just kidding, but now are sticking to it because they want to see how many people will try anything they say.
- Before and after handling food. We saw you earlier and you skimped on the washing.
Hand-washing is a simple process of turning on the water, wetting one's hands up to the upper wrists, getting the soap, making a good lather, scrubbing your fingers and palms, cupping your fingers together and rubbing them into the opposite palm in order to scrub the fingertips (repeat for each hand you have), scrubbing between your fingers, lathering up to your upper wrists, scratching the itch on your chin, proceeding to lather up the rest of your lower face so it looks like you did that on purpose, then rinsing off your hands, fingers, wrists, and drying your hands off, catching a glimpse of your face in the mirror, wetting your hands again, rinsing the soap off your face, and drying your hands again. In the average public lavatory you can often get as far as the first step before finding they've installed infrared sensors which turn on the water only when your hands are not there. This can often be overcome by hitting the faucet until it turns on. If the soap is also dispensed by infrared sensor nothing can be done, and you should curl up in a reasonably clean spot and whimper until someone calls responsible authorities.
Most soaps are as good as any other, so use the kind which feels and smells good to you where available, or the kind your mother told you to use, otherwise. Don't go using the shampoo; we're on to that trick. Warm water is preferable, particularly given the ability of many bacteria to survive cooler temperatures. So the ideal water for washing is around the ``critical point'' where the difference between liquid and gaseous water disappears, at approximately 375 degrees Celsius or 700 Fahrenheit, whichever comes first, and 220 atmospheres of pressure. If you can't get water quite that hot or pressurized then wash your hands anyway, but hold them in your pockets and look sheepish the rest of the day.
Trivia: Arron Marshall, of Rockingham Park, Western Australia, took a 336-hour long shower from 29 July through 12 August, 1978. Source: Guinness Book of World Records, 1982 Edition, Norris McWhirter, Editor.
Currently Reading: South: The Endurance Expedition, Ernest Shackleton.