Late last year, Jennifer Lawrence was asked about her worst habit and she laughingly responded, “I don’t wash my hands after I go to the bathroom.” This then haunted Jennifer for weeks as she was continually questioned about her bathroom habits. Before long, the actress felt the need to post a video and message on Facebook explaining that it was all a joke: “Of course I wash my hands after going to the bathroom! (I can’t believe I’ve put myself in a situation where I even have to say that.)”
Though Jennifer’s specific handwashing situation was displayed before the world, we have a feeling she isn’t the only one who walks right past the sink after using the bathroom. That brings up an important question: Do we really have to wash our hands after we pee?
According to epidemiologist Richard T. Ellison III, it doesn’t matter what you do in the bathroom when it comes to keeping your hands clean. “The rationale is that when toileting, it’s possible to have fecal material and fecal bacteria get onto your hands,” Ellison told Dollar Shave Club. “So it’s wisest to always wash with soap and water even after urinating. Neither plain water nor alcohol hand sanitizers are effective at removing fecal material or killing bacteria in fecal material.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, handwashing can prevent various illnesses and infections. Ellison added that it can also keep us from coming in contact with E. Coli and hepatitis.
This is especially important for men to bear in mind because of perianal sweat. This type of sweat forms around the perianal area, which is the patch of skin outside the rectum. It can then spread to one’s underwear and to other parts of the body like the penis. Biology professor Pat Fidopiastis explained, “The point is that simply touching the penis in an effort to direct your urine flow can be more than enough to transfer harmful microbes to your hands, and then on to the pretzels sitting in bowl on the bar.”
Now, you may be wondering: What about oral sex? Can these microbes get transferred that way, especially since no one ever tells guys to wash their penises in such cases?
Fidopiastis clarified that the mouth is a great at protecting us from microbes. “Your saliva is full of antimicrobial compounds and saliva mostly ends up being swallowed into you highly acidic stomach full of digestive enzymes,” said the professor. “So the levels of microbes someone is likely to get into their mouth straight off a typical hygienic penis more than likely won’t be enough to breach these formidable barriers.”
In the end, we should all realize that bathrooms are teeming with bacteria. Door handles, sink handles, counters, walls, and basically everything else in this area are fair game. That’s why handwashing can literally come in handy.