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April 30th, 2009
08:49 AM ET

How do I wash my hands?? CNN Producer wants to know!

Every day I learn something new at work. Yesterday I learned that doctors didn't wear gloves when they gave swine flu vaccines in 1976.
Today I learned I'm the last person on earth who doesn't know the rules for handwashing.
To back up - for the last week, whenever I've heard the words swine flu, I've felt the need to wash my hands immediately. On my third trip to the break room today (all before 7am), I started wondering if I was doing it right. I came back and asked the team "hey - should we do a segment on hand-washing?"
"Do you want to end up on the Daily Show?" "Are you kidding?" "Didn't you learn the birthday song rule?" "Come on - everyone's heard how to do it a thousand times."
Well hmph. What a bunch of wet blankets. (Love you guys!)
Since they won't let me put it on the show…Here we go:
My three questions: how long should you wash, does it matter how hot the water is, and is a bar of old-fashioned Ivory soap as good as the new-fangled antibacterialmicrobialeverything stuff.
Our medical department is working on the answers. I'll post them here after the show.
Meantime at 10:20, watch Heidi and Elizabeth Cohen answer your swine flu questions!

Sara Rudolph
(Worried) producer for Heidi in the Newsroom

Sara's update:

If anybody out there is a worrier (like me), here are the dirty details:

When washing hands with soap and water:
–Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
–Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
–Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. Need a timer? Imagine singing "Happy Birthday" twice through to a friend!
–Rinse hands well under running water
–Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet
Remember: If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based gel to clean hands.
As for the type of soap you use: a whole smorgasboard of studies out bar of Ivory is just as good as the fancy antibacterial version.
Sources: In a 2005 CDC-P&G Beauty study, "researchers found that incidence of disease did not differ significantly between households given plain soap versus antibacterial soap." (
A 2003 NIH-funded study also found that "antibacterial soap is no better a germ-killer than regular soap." (

from Sara Rudolph
(Still a little bit worried) producer for Heidi in the Newsroom

Filed under: Anchors • Heidi Collins
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Mary Ann

    Heidi you just spoke to Elizabeth Coen on VP Biden's comments. Coen said she had three letter response "OMG" to Biden's comment. Your position and Coen's with National media may carry responsibilities not to alarm the public, perhaps that is the point with Biden. That said I really think Biden's comments reflect only "common sense". It is certainly the advise give my children. Why would anyone unnecessarily expose themselves to this virus? If you do not take public transportation, you eliminate that source of contagion and mitigate your chance of infection.

    April 30, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  2. Chris From Ohio

    Sara or Heidi...When I delivered pizzas few years ago, when washing hands, I was told to get bout a teaspoon-to-tablespoon of soap in you're hands, and then scrub ur hands for 30 seconds or (Singing happy birthday twice in a row)

    April 30, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  3. Dan Fleury

    I want to ask the most beautiful woman on the news (that's you, Heidi), is it safe to use public bathrooms? I worry that there are more germs on a public faucet than are on my hands.

    April 30, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  4. Dawn Dowd

    Iowa health code is one of the strictest in the country.. A food preparer, is to wash their hands, with SOAP, for as long as it takes you to sing Happy Birthday to Me, slowly. Rinse, and use a towel to shut off the faucet and open the door..

    April 30, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  5. z oliver


    I am a cancer patient in remission for 7 months now. What precautions should I take and others like me.

    Love your info! Keep it up!

    Z Oliver

    April 30, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  6. Thomas

    STOP!! Please stop using the term "swine flu". Call it by it's correct name. You are causing harm to those of us that farm.

    April 30, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  7. Fran

    "the birthday" refers to the amount of time for handwashing. To time your handwashing, sing a full chorus of "Happy Birthday" while washing your hands. No, you don't have to sing it out loud!

    April 30, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  8. lewis

    I have a short Q for u The people who have had this flu can they get it
    a 2nd time

    April 30, 2009 at 11:02 am |
  9. JudgeU

    Hello Heidi, we should wash our hands in warm antibacterial soapy water; you can tip a little bleach or any antibacterial soap into water and wash hands from the elbow down to your palms, and fingers- making sure your fingernails are cut and clean. Avoid eating with dirty hands. Products that will help germs stay away: bleach, dettol, lime, alcohol, and any other antibacterial soap or liquid.

    April 30, 2009 at 11:03 am |
  10. Marion White

    Some of the scenes on Cnn contain images that look like they are right out of the movie "Outbreak". We do have a problem but the way this has been blown out of proportion is dangerous. If this did get to be a real pandemic which we are far far far from we will be so complacent that it will over take us. I am a nurse. I work directly out on the streets in the urban communities. Its like this whole business doesn't exsist. No one cares whether they cough on you. People at the train stations and buses spit and hack all over the place. This is curious to me when you look at where the virus is most prevalent. After watching Cnn yesterday I was actually getting paranoid and actually had a psychosymatic affect of feeling sick. I'm fine today because I stopped my self. You should really watch "The Daily Show" I think Jon Stewart has the true version of reality. Mickey

    April 30, 2009 at 11:03 am |
  11. Anjana Dayal

    This is a very informative clip for handwashing. This was produced by the American Red Cross for the Indian Red Cross society.

    April 30, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  12. Melissa

    When my daughter was first born in '96, she was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Loyola Hospital in Chicago, they have a great staff that requires you learn the basics before you take your baby home. One of the things they taught every family bringing their baby home was how to effectively wash their hands before handling your child.
    Wash with warm water, lather up (the type of soap didn't draw a concern), and use a fingernail brush the 'scrub up' for 1-2 minutes. Rinse well and dry your hands with a clean towel. All towels should be washed in hot water and dried in the dryer at the hottest temperature that the towel will allow.
    They also said the basic rules still stand if someone is sick, obviously, first and foremost to stay away but if it is a family member carry Kleenex for when they do sneeze or cough, it must be covered with the Kleenex. One neat tip my kids learn in school is to cover their mouth with the inside of the elbow instead of their hands which will pass the germs along to a doorknob or a drawer handle.
    Hope this helps.
    Thank you.

    April 30, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  13. Erik the MEDIC in NYC

    Not rocket science: 1) turn on warm water with back of wrist or hands free infrared beam... (wait it's now sounding like rocket science) 2) apply soap to hands 3) rub hands together until CNN says or displays 'Swine Flu' 4) antibacterial soap only pollutes the water and drains your wallet and is unnecessary as H1N1 is a virus and is easily killed by old fashioned soap. And advise viewers to wear a mask outside if they are sneezing, cough into their elbows and save '911' for real emergencies. If you have the 'sniffles', and no fever... the culprit here in NYC may just be the trees...

    April 30, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  14. Donna Kosch

    Vice President Biden"s comments were right on!!! Unfortunaltely, BIG MONEY again speaks out against honest truth! I'm so tired of the news media spinning a story to protect the financial interests of companies! Protecting our citizens health should be the number one priority!

    April 30, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  15. Erik the MEDIC in NYC

    And why didn't you call that 'kook' Barbara Bachmann out for calling it a coincidence that the last 'Swine flu' outbreak also occurred during a Democratic administration... which is 1) WRONG! It was in '76, but under President Ford, not Carter 2) What was her reason for that half-baked statement? Perhaps she has a fever.

    April 30, 2009 at 11:12 am |

    i wash my hand at all time,i carry a hand sanitizer in my purse and my truck....we are benig takefull.we live in pearsall tx close to mexio about 3 hour away.......thank you

    April 30, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  17. Brian D

    Seldom do people follow the true standards of hand washing, regardless here's a somewhat text book answer. You can use either soap and water or an alcohol based hand sanitizer (Don't require water.). Wet your hands with warm (If it's too hot you could burn yourself.), running water and apply the soap if you use bar soap make sure you lather it well. Rub your hands vigorously together for at least 15 to 20 seconds 30 is actually the preferred time. Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails and then rinse well. Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel and make sure to use a towel to turn off the faucet and open the bathroom door otherwise you just defeated the entire purpose of hand washing and I'm sure we've all been guilty of that one.

    Antibacterial soaps have become increasingly popular over the years. Regardless these soaps are no more effective at killing germs than standard soap. Some believe antibacterial soaps may actually lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant making it even harder to kill these germs in the future. Which is why any soap will accomplish the same task.

    Most people don't know this but airplanes and other forms of transportation are great places to pick up all sorts of interesting bacteria and viruses due to straight lack of proper disinfecting. I love the undercover local news stories where they go swab different places in an airplane you'd be amazed what's growing in every section the average person comes in contact with.

    April 30, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  18. 1ChanceOnly

    Heidi, why do the analyst and commentators continue to call H1N1 the "swine" flu? Haven't we scared enough people from eating Pork? I have no ties to this industry, in fact I am a retiree. I'm just wondering is this the MSM attempt to kill off a industry and put people out of work so that the MSM can cover another casualty and keep your ratings from dropping further? Why don't you media types get this right?

    April 30, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  19. David

    All right. I'd say Ivory soap is better if you have to wash your hands a lot. Antibacterial soaps when used frequently make your skin dry and then you have to use lubriderm or something. The point is all these little cuts open up on your hands when your skin gets dry. That's an inconvenient if you have to handle foods, or are doing cleaning.

    How long should you wash? A good long time. I don't know.

    The water though should be warm to hot, say very warm. Hot water if you have to use it a lot will be rough on your skin.

    April 30, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  20. American Me

    Illegal immigration, Drugs, deadly gangs, and now swine flu? When will our leaders accept that our border with Mexico being left open is a serious security risk? Whats their agenda?

    April 30, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  21. john

    turn off the water while washing, turn it back on the rinse.
    stop wasting water!

    May 1, 2009 at 9:45 am |
  22. john

    they got a commercial on cnn about some kid turning off the water while his dad brushes his teeth, to save water.
    then cnn shows a video of a woman wasting water while taking forever to wash her hands.
    get you hands wet, then turn off water, wash hands, turn on water, rinse hands, then turn off water again.
    while your hands are soapy, clean off the handles of the faucets, too.
    DON'T WASTE WATER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 1, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  23. Susan M Dunn

    SHAME ON YOU!!!!
    I just saw the video on CNN of the "hand washing lesson", and I was horrified that there was NO REGARD FOR WATER RUNNING. That water must have been running, without it being used whatsover, for over 2 minutes! What kind of lesson is this other than that we Americans can waste all the resources we want without any consequence?

    And the messages about the way we use paper, such as using a paper towel to touch YOUR OWN faucet handle.... Come On! This is simply hysteria, and not only that, bad medicine, as well as encouraging people to waste paper.

    The fact is, we know that germs are what make us strong. Sure, every now and then we get sick, but that is our body exercising its immunity system. Getting sick is like exercise. It hurts for awhile, but then you are stronger later. The trouble is, THIS MESSAGE DOESN'T SELL ANY PRODUCTS!!! So the media isn't interested in it.


    May 1, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  24. Jocelyn Gallant

    When we we're growing up we tough to wash our hands everytime useing the bathroom, after we eat before going to bed.

    I believing old fashion hand wash is the best wipen against flu, strep throat, cold virous we can advoided get it.

    Today we go to a restaurant and shoping at retails the bathrooms are not clearned it needs school buses, public transportation buses should be washed down good before passangers travilers to their destation. Buildings needs scrub down and including homes, apartments, schools, colleges hospitals, nursing homes all should be scrub down to the bar bone.

    Salem, NH

    May 6, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  25. Joe

    My question is if water is available but no soap, as is common in many public facilities. What is the proper hand washing protocol then. How long should you wash to get the same results as soap and water?

    September 28, 2009 at 11:37 am |

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