Can You Wash Your Hands Too Much?

It’s flu season and the need to wash your hands is at an all time high to ensure safety from the flu and the norovirus.  I personally tend to wash my hands more than the average guy because I believe that washing your hands often is key in preventing sickness.  I looked into whether washing your hands often helps you or actually hurts you and what soaps are best to clean your hands.

During the winter months my hands get extremely dry and it causes a great deal of pain and washing my hands often just makes the effects worse.  I researched the effects of washing your hands too frequently and the results were a bit frightening.  “Repeated washings, especially with soaps containing sodium lauryl sulfate or other compounds, can trigger hand dermatitis–particularly in dry climates like our own.” (Yeates)  Dermatitis is marked by scaling, redness, itching and burning and can take months to heal.  I wonder if my repeated hand washing causes Dermatitis in my hands or if it is just really dry skin.


60 healthcare workers at a University Hospital’s Case Medical Center in Cleveland were monitored in an observational study where they washed their hands 10 times daily and 63 percent of those 60 contracted Dermatitis.  So clearly there are some downsides when trying to stay clean during flu season.  Kristen Dascomb recommends “alcohol-based products not only [to] kill the germs but also [to] have emollients in them that help enhance the moisture in the skin,”.

This brings up the issue of what kind of soaps to use because some are actually making people more sick.  Soaps such as antibiotic soaps work less effectively than regular soaps and actually increase frequencies of fevers, runny noses and coughs.  Soaps like these have Triclosan which kills weak bacteria but favors the tolerant bacteria.

Along with worrying about the flu this year we also have to worry about the harmful effects of trying to prevent the flu and how we do it.  The soaps we use can be extremely unsafe and washing our hands can cause Dermatitis which is painful and doesn’t heal for months.  Be careful this winter and get the flu shot!

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4 thoughts on “Can You Wash Your Hands Too Much?

  1. Jon Winneg

    Wow very interesting subject. Even though there maybe some downsides to washing your hands too much, I feel like it is better to be safe than sorry. I believe that I would rather get dry skin than contract the flu or other types of diseases. I found it interesting that even though these hospital workers washed their hands frequently, they contracted dermatitis. Why would soap companies not make thier soaps effective, and why would they add ingredients that would make peoples hands dry? But depite this data I will confidently say I will wash my hands regularly, but maybe won’t be over cautious by making sure I am not washing my hands every 10 min. Interesting post nevertheless.

  2. Andrea Marie Linn

    I am curious to why soap makers put things into soap that makes your hands drier. No one enjoys cracked hands. I want to say that the study exemplifies what the hands of hospital workers are like, but even a bigger sample control group could further back up the evidence. I read an article that said Triclosan is somewhat toxic! Researchers have found that Triclosan can potentially mess with sex hormonal activity and seems to exacerbate immune hypersensitivity disorders like allergies and asthma. One study even found that Triclosan could weaken cardiac and skeletal muscles! I guess were are really putting ourselves more at risk than we thought of. I also read in an earlier blog that you should use soap instead of hand sanitizer. Seems like we’ll just have to moisturize!

  3. Chloe Atherton Cullen

    While I had heard things about over-washing hands, I had never heard about the downsides of antibacterial soaps. Even the FDA is reconsidering the benefits of antibacterial soaps because of the Triclosan you mentioned. It says that this could “contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Such resistance can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of medical treatments.” Since people have a chance to weigh in on this website about what the FDA should do, this clearly is still an undecided topic that may come with more research and new discoveries.

  4. Ines Anne Montfajon

    I do agree with the fact that it could be bad to wash our hands to many times per day but I do not agree with the fact that we should replace it by using“alcohol-based products not only [to] kill the germs but also [to] have emollients in them that help enhance the moisture in the skin,” because it actually does not do that.
    I did a post about hand sanitizer and it is definitely better to use regular soap than hand sanitizer.
    Hand sanitizer kills all the germs on people’s hands even the good ones which is bad.
    On this article it says that
    “Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used “in addition to” hand washing, but should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.”

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