Ew, when was the last time you washed your hands? Did you know that nearly 80% of infectious diseases are spread by contacting things around you? We touch money and door handles, we share pens to sign documents in banks and whatnot.

Oh, and we love shaking hands. That’s just gross.

It’s not surprising that washing your hands with soap is the number one preventative measure against viruses. But what if you ignored your hand hygiene for, say, a year?

How many different germs would make your palms their home? And how can you alone cause a worldwide economic crisis?

Everyone knows we must wash our hands with soap. But the reality is, most of us are either doing it wrong or aren’t doing it at all.

Let me show you what happens when you grow your hand bacteria in petri dishes. This squeaky clean sample is after a full 20-second hand wash with soap. This sample has the bacteria left when you just rinse your hands with water. And this one shows how much bacteria lives on your hands when you don’t wash them.

Now, are you ready for some gross stats? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, found that 69% of men and 35% of women don’t wash their hands after using a public bathroom.

And over 93% of people don’t wash their hands after coughing or sneezing. I’d better go and wash my hands right now.

Where were we? Ah, not washing your hands for a year. I hope our research team didn’t test this one on themselves.

Alright, here are the ground rules. Let’s assume that, hypothetically, your hands didn’t touch soap or hand sanitizer for 12 months. You could still swim and shower, or get your hands wet in the rain. But you didn’t wash them.

How soon will you become a walking bacteria stick? Unfortunately, I can’t give you an exact timeline here. It depends on too many factors, like the types of germs, and how many people you come in contact with. And it looks like we didn’t sacrifice our researchers for that purpose.

The only certainty is that you would get sick. When? (Well) Soon enough. In the short-term, your hands would start to look esthetically displeasing.

They’d be covered in dirt and grease, and a plethora of unseen bacteria. People would stop shaking your hands, and I wouldn’t even give you an elbow bump.

But the unpleasant look of your hands would be the least of your problems. According to research from the University of Colorado, our hands carry some 3,200 bacteria from 150 different species.

Every time you used the toilet, the number of germs on your fingertips would double. That has something to do with the fact that germs can spray up to 2 m (6 ft) in the air when you flush.

You’d transfer all those bacteria to your food and drinks. And that would be making you repeatedly sick. You’d be having 30% more diarrhea-related illnesses and 20% more respiratory infections like flu.

Your doctor would keep prescribing antibiotics. Eventually, the bacteria on your hands would develop resistance to those meds, and they would stop helping you.

If that’s not bad enough, you’d make others sick as well. And if everyone got sick, they’d have to take time off work and lock themselves at home.

When people stay home and don’t go out to restaurants or shopping malls, the economy takes a nosedive. If a pandemic spreads all over the world, the economic slowdown could cost trillions of dollars.

Bottom line? Not washing your hands for a year isn’t something you want to try. But if you do, make sure to practice social distancing, so you don’t come in contact with too many people and cause another pandemic.

Washing hands helps save lives. It’s the best method for removing hand bacteria and stopping the spread of viruses. Here’s how to do it right.

Wet your hands with clean water. Turn off the tap, and apply soap. Keep lathering your hands for at least 20 seconds.

You can hum a verse of your favorite song twice, or just watch this video from this point and till the end. Make sure to wash between your fingers, under your nails, and the back of your hands. Rinse your hands with water and dry them with a clean towel.

Do it regularly and stay safe. Next time you want to do something crazy, try going without a shower for a month.

Subscribe to What-If on YouTube or follow the show on Facebook Watch.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments