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This Chrishannukwanzaa I was the proud recipient of some SquidSoap:

The concept here is that the top of the dispenser has an ink pad on it so that when you press down to get the soap it puts an ink mark on your hand. That ink mark takes about 20 seconds to wash off, so you get positive reinforcement of good washing habits. This is a pretty clever idea but the execution is a little off. With my model you need to press down unnaturally hard to get the ink to mark your hand much at all. That seems easily fixable.

A more serious problem is that while just getting people to wash long enough is important, there's a lot more to good handwashing than that—you need to wash your whole hand, not just the palms. Really getting your hands clean turns out to require quite a bit of dedicated scrubbing. I once attended an exhibit at the Puyallup Fair designed to demonstrate this. They had you rub this lotion onto your hands and then wash it off. Once you thought you'd done an adequate job of washing you put your hand under a UV light at which point all the lotion that you haven't washed off glows brightly. I thought I'd done a good job of washing already and was appalled at all the places that were still glowing (the webbing in between my hands, cuticles, under the nails, etc.) This is one reason for the growing emphasis on waterless hand sanitizers which do a pretty good job with less scrubbing. Still, washing for 20 seconds is a lot better than nothing. Now if we could just get a gizmo which would teach people to wash their hands at all!


Some take issue with hand sanitizers because we suspect that an overly sanitized environment may be causing a lot of health problems on its own (particularly immune system related issues like allergies, and possibly some chronic diseases like Crohn's and Lupus).

Not that there is any certainty on that, but isn't there a law of diminishing returns with respect to hygiene? While I'll grant it is very important to get your entire hands clean after a number 2 on the throne, in most other situations I wonder how much disease risk reduction we get from washing the parts of our hands that aren't our fingertips. Those are, after all, the only non-facial body parts that usually touch my food.

Conversely, when you sterilize your hands all the time, you are killing the good bacteria along with the band. And ultimately we are not evolved to live in sterile environments.

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