Handshakers are the “dirtiest” of the bunch, study says

Aug. 13, 2014—A firm handshake might be the most professional way to greet someone, but it’s far from the cleanest. Turns out, a fist bump is much more hygienic, according to a new study.

About the study

Researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales sought to compare the amount of germs exchanged during handshakes, high fives and fist bumps. The scientists donned rubber gloves and dipped their hands in an E. coli solution. Then they swapped handshakes, high fives and fist bumps with clean-gloved counterparts.

After testing the clean gloves for freshly transferred germs, the gloves of the handshakers proved the dirtiest of the bunch. High fives transferred half as many bugs to the clean gloves, while fist bumps slashed germ transfer by 90 percent.

But fist bumps worked best when they were done quickly: When the typically fast fist bump was slowed down to the length of a handshake (about three seconds), germ transfer spiked.

The findings suggest that quicker hand greetings with minimal skin contact, like a fast fist bump, could help to prevent the spread of illness or infection. Read the full study here.

The take-home message
Quick, low-contact fist bumps are hip and hygienic. But they’re not always practical. Thankfully, swapping a shake for a bump isn’t the only way to keep clean: Washing your hands is still one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Be sure to lather up regularly, especially at these times:

  • After using the toilet
  • After changing a diaper or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • After touching garbage

If you’re not quite sure how to wash your hands properly, check out this infographic.


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