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Is Washing Your Hands In Hot Water Better than In Cold?

Claim- Washing your hands with hot water works better than cold water to clean yourself with.

Verdict- Misleading (sort of). It really depends on what you're washing off. Dirt and grease does tend to break down a little easier with warmer water than with cold, but it's not always a significant difference. If it's bacteria you're trying to remove, the water temperature really doesn't make a difference at all. Studies show that using water from as cold as 4 degrees Celsius to as warm as 48 degrees (40 f to 120 f) made no difference on the number of ambient bacteria still hanging around. In order to kill bacteria with temperature alone you'd need to use water that's around 70 degrees Celsius ( 158 F)  or above, which would easily scald you in the process, so soap is obviously a much better option. Soap helps loosen the grip bacteria have on our skin making them easier to wash off, and antibacterial soaps commonly use alcohol or other antibacterial agents to aid in killing off even more unwanted guests that may be stubbornly holding on.


And proper washing technique will do far more good than either soap or the water temperature will to removing those nasty germs. According to the CDC you should;
  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold)
  2. Turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  3. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  4. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  5. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  6. Dry your hands using a clean towel.

Proper Hand Washing



Using warm water can have some drawbacks too. Warm water opens your pores and makes you more susceptible to chemicals that may be on your skin so its advised to wash in cold water for that reason in many workplaces. People who have soap sensitive skin also often find they have better results and reduced rashes from preferring cold over warm water. In the end what it really comes down to for the average person is that you should use whatever temperature is most comfortable, and just be sure to wash your hands.

Sources / More Reading
-Hot Water for Handwashing—Where is the Proof?
-Triclosan -Wikipedia
-The Handiwork Of Good Health- Health.Harvard.edu
-Soap. how much Cleaner Does It Make You?- The Atlantic
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