You’re probably not cleaning this little nook nearly enough.
So you think you’re an expert hand-washer, eh? You wash your hands before, during, and after working with food. You scrub for the recommended 20 seconds. You even clean between each finger and lathering up the back of your hands. Dang … you’re good.
If you go above and beyond to hit those marks, you’re already doing better than most people. Researchers have estimated that if people routinely and effectively washed their hands, around a million deaths could be avoided worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But even you—yes, you, the expert hand washer—are probably missing one ultra-germy spot (because most people do, tbh). This area contains more microorganisms than any other spot on the hands, and is the most challenging spot to clean, according to researchers at the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.
Where is this spot you’re missing? Under your fingernails.
Be honest: When was the last time you cleaned under those nails? Even if they look clean and devoid of dirt, there are still tons of germs hanging out in there—including potentially dangerous ones like E. coli, according to the University of Georgia study.
So how do you clean this tricky spot? You may discover that it’s not the easiest to scrub your fingernails with your own hands.
The most effective way, according to the CDC, is to use a nail brush. These small, narrow brushes can help sweep out infectious germs better than regular hand-washing or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
In addition to using a nail brush, here are other crucial tips to keep those nails clean, according to the CDC:
Trim your nails often: Longer nails harbor more bacteria simply due to the increased surface area. (Find out here whether round or square tips are healthier for your hands.)
Sanitize your nail clippers and other tools before using.
Consider bringing your own tools to commercial nail salons, or make sure your technician is using sterilized or new tools. (Here are more tips to get a safe pedicure.)
Avoid chewing your nails or hangnails, and don’t cut your cuticles. (Check out these tips to quit biting your nails.)
Still think you’re an expert at hand hygiene? Find out here if a doc would approve of your hygiene habits.
Hygiene fast facts. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on September 11, 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/fast_facts.html.)
Lin CM, Wu FM, Kim HK, Doyle MP, Michael BS, Williams LK. A comparison of hand washing techniques to remove Escherichia coli and caliciviruses under natural or artificial fingernails. J Food Prot. 2003 Dec;66(12):2296-301.
Nail hygiene. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on September 11, 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/hand/nail_hygiene.html.)
Show me the science - how to wash your hands. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on September 11, 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-handwashing.html.)