97% of us apparently aren’t washing our hands correctly, and yikes

So many things about early adulthood are difficult to get the hang of. Taxes, budgeting, taking care of plants — to name just a few. But hand washing is one thing that usually seems like a straightforward, almost instinctive task, right? Not so fast. A new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveals that 97% of us aren’t washing our hands correctly. Let that sink in.

Apparently, most of us totally rush the task, essentially rendering it useless.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing your hands with soap for 20 whole seconds (which is way longer than it seems). You might remember learning way back in kindergarten that you should sing the “Happy Birthday” song to make sure you spend the proper amount of time scrubbing, and it’s still a good rule of thumb.

According to CNN, the study tested 383 people in six test kitchens, both in metro and rural areas of North Carolina. The study found that — because of poor hand-washing protocol — around half the participants spread bacteria from raw meat to spice containers. Additionally, 11% of the time, participants spread bacteria to refrigerator handles.

The CDC breaks down hand washing into five simple steps.

  1. Wet your hands.
  2. Lather with soap. The CDC site says “Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.”
  3. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds (or hum the “Happy Birthday” song not once, but twice, from beginning to end).
  4. Rinse your hands.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel. The clean part is important, because the USDA study found that “numerous” participants didn’t use a clean towel to dry their hands, which can just recontaminate them.

Ugh, adulting.

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