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The Hand Towel Did It!

This mystery is a topic I have been speaking and teaching on for over thirty years. What a blessing that is but also a crazy reality – time sure is whizzing by! Much of the information has stayed the same with the benefit that today we have many more studies to help us make better, safer choices.

People don’t realize how sneaky that innocent little hand towel can be. This unfortunate mystery has been a topic that I have been speaking and teaching on for over thirty years. And with becoming a wellness strategist & lifestyle mentor this last year – I find myself reviewing this subject quite frequently during my coaching time with people….that little hand towel and other items around the house can impact our health. And once you are aware, it is a simple fix. Much of this information is the same as I taught years ago with the benefit that today we have many more studies to help us make better, safer choices.

WARNING 😉 What I am about to share is “sticky” – once you are aware of this, hard to ignore! If you don’t want to know or learn about common “daily germ sharing” or cross-contamination…stop reading now!

Okay, for those of you who are brave – and curious about how the hand towel did it, let’s start with a bit of history. I was a pre-med college student that transitioned to a spa salon owner. (Yes – lots more story there…for another time!) I quickly realized that a salon environment is very much like a medical office. People, surfaces, implements and linens being used from person to person – that needed to be clean – Not necessarily sterilized but clean. My salon clientele was very fond of how clean and safe things were in our environment. My reputation and business grew from this one simple strategy – keep people aware of our sanitation procedures (clean and safe) when they received professional spa and salon services. 

Word of our “clean space” got around and exciting things began to happen – first, I was asked to teach Sanitation & Disinfection at professional conferences for the spa & salon market. Second, I was invited to cowrite sections in the Professional Cosmetology Textbooks! It was very exciting speaking on stage at the big US shows in Chicago, New York and California….where I learned other techniques that led to writing my first solo book. Which ultimately blessed me to travel nationally and internationally teaching salon professionals how to work smarter and safer!

During this time, I became a consultant that partnered with salons to educate their staff to provide sanitary professional services….and it was helping these other salons get clean that I learned many powerful stories that left a memorable impression – which encouraged the salon staff to be meticulous in their sanitation and disinfection. No one wanted one of these stories to be about them or their salon!

Before I start the story telling – let’s review definitions:

Antiseptic – product used to remove or kill microorganisms safely on skin. Examples would be a hand sanitizer or an alcohol wipe. These products could be used on a surface with no harm but are designed to clean skin.

Disinfectant – product used to kill microorganisms on surfaces. Disinfectants are to be applied to non-living surfaces like tools, a counter or sink. These products may harm skin – read label for proper handling.

Sanitation – is simply to clean something. We can sanitize skin, surfaces and fabrics (towels, clothing & bedding.)

Sterilize – procedure for things that kills all microorganisms. One cannot sterilize skin or anything that is living, was living (like wood, pumice, natural sponge or loofah) or if it is porous (has little holes in the surface where microorganisms can hide from the sterilization process.)

Many people use these terms interchangeably, but the reality is they are not at all the same. Which is very important to understand when keeping things clean or germ-free for tools and surfaces that contact multiple people.

First story occurred at a salon that was part of a large chain. One of the stylists’ kids had pink eye (conjunctivitis.) The stylist missed her morning appointments attending to her child and sorting out childcare. She did come to do her afternoon appointments. She was primarily a nail technician but also had a few facial waxing services that day. Unfortunately, either she was unaware how contagious conjunctivitis was or was just too busy catching up, that she was careless. Plus, she was unfortunately quite vocal all afternoon about how her daughter had pink eye and what a great inconvenience it had been to her that day. Two days later, a third of the staff had pink eye and the salon was receiving calls from clients that had contracted it. This was a BIG, dreadful problem for management. A financial and marketing nightmare! The salon was required to close their doors to have it properly sanitized with documented procedures. They also had to arrange for the affected staff members to get treatment and address their loss of income while unable to be at the salon. Talk about a huge motivator to have the staff trained on proper hand washing, tool and surface disinfection. Luckily, conjunctivitis or pink eye is completely treatable with no long-term ill effects.

Second story is watching a young mom with children in a public restroom. They are usually very careful that the children enter and exit the toilet area safely. Then they help the children wash their hands with soap. Then the kids are excited to be done so they race to the door and grab the door handle to help mom out. Unfortunately, the child then leaves the restroom with more germs on their hands than when they entered. Because the statistics are pretty grim on public handwashing after using the restroom. The studies are especially high if people use the restroom alone compared to if others are in the restroom with them – more handwashing occurs if two or more are in the restroom. The good thing is today, many restrooms are being designed with a no-door entryway  or having a push surface to exit which you can use a forearm or foot to do. But having a paper towel is always a great habit to instill to prevent bringing anyone’s else’s bugs from the restroom with you. (Bet you have seen the TV commercial that follows a person using a restroom, then sneezing, blowing his nose and all the surfaces he touches in just a few minutes.)

The third story is the situation in most of our homes. We have beautiful, fabric hand towels in the bathroom and kitchen. Which normally is fine. Change them often and grab a new one if they get wet. Fabric hand towels that “everyone” uses only becomes risky when someone is sick, or you have little or big people who don’t wash their hands but still use the towel….the famous rinse the hands but “forget” to use the hand soap. Wet hands deposit all that they have encountered that day into the hand towel for the “unsuspecting” users after them. Everyone who contacts the hand towel after that person, will receive the bacteria, viruses or fungus that may be growing in the moist, dark folds of the towel. People don’t do this because they are mean….we just all don’t believe that “we are dirty” or that we could be carrying something. That only happens to “other people!”  Moral of the story – if you aren’t going to use soap, skip rinsing and drying your hands on the communal towel – okay?!

And that, my friends, are just a few ways that the hand towel did it! It will share whatever has been placed on it…..the flu, a cold or pink eye!

Make a commitment to change your hand towels frequently….have plenty available when you have guests or consider simple paper napkins! And remember to keep the paper towel in your hand if there is a door handle when exiting a public restroom!

These are only three stories….but I think you have the idea. And if you want to be savvier at avoiding things (or you are immune compromised) I can help you navigate so you will stay clear of things that may affect you and your family. I have two classes you may appreciate attending: Everyday Hidden Ingredients Revealed and Survival for Sensitive & AutoImmune Skin.

There are classes scheduled online (check my Events Tab!) If you don’t see a time that fits, please contact me with times that work and let’s get a new date on the schedule for you. These classes may also be customized for a group or for your business…they are a great way to invite clients to visit with you to attend as a customer appreciation or as an employee benefit.

Let me know how this information helped you and your family. If you would like to learn more about how I may help, I offer 30 minute complimentary consultations to get to know one another and see where we may have synergy!

Be well!

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