Is your handwashing up to scratch? 30 April

‘Wash your hands’ is a key public health message to avoid COVID-19 infection. But how do we know we are washing them well enough to remove the virus? Is soap and water and two rounds of ‘happy birthday’ enough?

  • Sunscreen research system turned into personalised feedback on hand washing
  • UV light shows areas of the hands that need extra attention
  • Follow government guide to correct handwashing technique to thoroughly clean hands

QUT public health sun safety researcher Dr Elke Hacker has adapted the smart sunscreen station to provide personalised feedback on the effectiveness of your handwashing.

The ‘smart’ handwashing station she has developed integrates a UV light and camera technology to provide a visual representation of how clean your hands are after washing.

“The method is simple,” Dr Hacker said. “You apply a fluorescent moisturiser to your hands and then wash them.

“Most of us, before the coronavirus epidemic, washed our hands for about five seconds, but since the outbreak we are taking longer washing them, however, technique is just as important as the time you spend with the soap and water.

“To see how your handwashing matches up, you can apply the fluorescent moisturiser and wash and dry your hands then put them under a UV light.

“The blue light highlights in white the areas you have missed, ie where the moisturiser is still on the skin.”

Dr Hacker said demonstrations of correct handwashing technique were readily available on the internet.

“Correct handwashing must involve washing between the fingers and rotational rubbing around the thumb and paying attention to nails and palms.

“Once you have used this technique you can try the UV light test again and see any improvements in your technique.

“It’s a simple idea but people are certainly surprised when they see just how much of their hands are still potentially carrying germs.”

Dr Hacker said she and her team decided to tackle improving hand washing techniques.

“We hope using a personal visualisation tool can lead to behaviour change and improve hand washing.”

The smart handwashing station was developed with industrial design company Designworks.

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