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.

WARNING 😉 What I am about to share is “sticky” – once you are aware of this, hard to ignore! So 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. I quickly realized that a salon environment is 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 really liked 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. 

Then exciting things happened – 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 internationally teaching salon professionals how to work smarter and safer!

During this time, I was hired to partner 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 to share that would be memorable – which encouraged the salon staff to be meticulous in their sanitation and disinfection.

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 working out childcare but came in for her afternoon. She was primarily a nail technician but also had a facial waxing appointments. 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. Once home, these critters likely end up on surfaces and your hand towels. Unfortunately, the child left 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 to be doorless 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.)

Third story is most of our homes. Those fabric hand towels in the bathroom and kitchen. Which is fine if they are changed frequently (at least daily!) And grab a new one if they get wet. If someone is sick, everyone needs their own towel to use or switch to paper towels. Unfortunately, the studies available today regarding the fact that we don’t change our hand towels frequently enough. Or people use your personal towel instead of the hand towel provided. Especially if we have little people or adults who may just rinse their hands after using the restroom or handling raw meat in the kitchen. Then 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. Wet hands that did not get soaped up will deposit far more into the towel. So 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 loves to share the flu, a cold or pink eye with you!

Make a commitment to change your hand towels frequently….and use a paper towel if there is a door handle when exiting a public restroom!

I have more stories to share….think how we show affection to our friends or children…..but I think you have the idea. And if you want to learn more – watch for my new online class coming in 2020! Or we can meet virtually at your convenience! Since I started mentoring people on how to create a wellness plan and then be accountable to it – I have been reviewing this material more than I expected. I am learning that it is new territory for many on how to protect their microbiomes. If you or a family member has a compromised immunity, gets sick more frequently than you enjoy or you want to make your business environment a safer place to navigate – I would be honored to help you evaluate and educate to prevent cross contamination!

Be well!

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