Sunday, 8 January 2012

Washing my hands

I used to joke that my hands were twenty years older than the rest of me because I washed them so often. Now I think they’re more like fifty years older. 

Apart from the usual handwashing rituals following ‘comfort breaks’ or ‘bathroom visits’ (quaint expressions, eh?) I’ve always washed my hands after handling animals, including small children. Working with young humans sharpens one’s observational acuity and it’s hard to avoid noticing where their fingers are going and what they’re doing. You can’t see dirt, right? Well, obviously, sometimes you can but you know what I mean.

I wash my hands before preparing food and again afterwards. I wash my hands after blowing my nose (I wish doctors would!) and I’m doing a lot of that now since Barry kindly shared his cold with me. After I’ve loaded washing in the washing machine or filled the dishwasher I wash my hands. Just put out the rubbish? Wash your hands! If I handle money (filthy lucre!) time to wash. Travelling on public transport or opening doors to public buildings – shops, for example – causes an outbreak of hand-washing. Naturally I can’t always access soap and water so I carry hand wipes for those occasions. Sometimes I avoid the problem by using my elbows.

In the last couple of months I’ve developed a worrying habit. Since we do most of our shopping online we have a lot of deliveries. When I go to the door to accept the parcel, frequently I’m asked to ‘sign for it’. This makes me think I should be performing some elaborate ritual mimicry involving fingers in unusual combinations but actually involves grasping a pen attached to a clipboard or more usually a miniature screen display and scrawling an unintelligible signature. Then I have to wash my hands. I know it’s illogical but I can’t stop myself.

When I was teaching I used to encourage the children to wash their hands at appropriate intervals. Then I would remind them to ‘wash the soap.’ Some of them understood immediately the reason for that – maybe their mothers had the same rule. The rest looked incredulous but obeyed anyway. (Oh, the power!)

More tales from the Land of Clean can be found here and here

What foibles or compulsions do you have and are you willing to share them?


  1. Oh, it does seem to be taking on all the attributes of a compulsion. I think people who have pets are more apt to wash their hands a zillion times a day. I just mentioned to Dick yesterday that my hands get absolutely raw from being washed so often!

  2. I'm afraid I'm exactly your sort of hand washer. Being fond of the company of small children and animals makes it even worse.

    I also close the lid of the toilet before flushing - having seen a film, years ago, of how much (extremely) fine spray gets thrown upwards and outwards by a flushing toilet (think about it....), it's become automatic. None of my visitors do, though, and consider me hugely neurotic. Maybe they're right!

  3. I have to rinse my hands after washing with soap as I can't bear the feel of anything on my hands. This is why i dont wear nail varnish as it really irritates me as I feel my nails are dirty.

  4. I understand about hand washing. I don't think I wash quite as often as you, but always before food prep, after food prep, after taking out trash. Public restrooms (do you call them that there?) are horrible. You touch the faucet, wash your hands, THEN you have to touch the faucet (not so clean perhaps) to turn it off. Then a towel...sometimes you have to touch something to make it come out, and then...well, if I can, I will KEEP the towel to open up the restroom door, hold the door open with my foot, and deposit the towel in the waste basket. If I can't get it to the basket, I will carry it out WITH me and deposit it elsewhere. Anyway, I am teaching my granddaughter these things too when we are in public spaces especially. And you mentioned 'old hands.' I have always had old 'mother's hands' since I was in my 20's. Oh well, now I have probably grown into them finally. LOL. Obviously your subject resonated.

  5. Thank you, everyone:-) It's always a little worrying exposing one's idiosyncrasies to public scrutiny but one thing I've learnt through blogging is that there's (usually) someone (and sometimes,more than one!) 'out there' who shares at least some measure of one's particular eccentricity!

  6. I a big fan of the handwashing compulsion. I wish more people were...

  7. I don't think I wash my hands quite as often-but nearly-certainly quite a lot at school as there is so much snot(not to put too fine a point on it!) about. When I leave a public toilet I try to pick a piece of the handle that will not have been touched-or the edge of the door is better. Though the soap that was advertised a while ago that you didn't have to touch to make it dispense just struck me as yet another gimmick-as you only touch it when your hands are dirty anyway and then you don't touch it again. I wonder when normal(ish) behaviour can be said to have tipped over into OCD? Best not to worry about it probably. Though typing that has just reminded me about my feelings of disgust at the shared keyboard and phone at work. Yuck!

  8. Yes, I'm one of the hand washers too. But I know that it isn't an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, so I'm okay with it. It's just hygiene. When I'll start to carry around wipes, I will get worried... ;-)

  9. I am a FHW too (Frequent hand washer)I understand.

  10. Aaah, some of that sounds familar, for sure! I wash before and after food preparation, loading/unloading the washing, loading the dishwasher, handling animals, their food dishes or their bedding (yes, and small children!) or accepting things (including handshakes, sometimes) from strangers .. depends on how clean they look. Putting out rubbish - of course!! And I'm stunned by the number of people who don't do that.

    But doorhandles, money and so on? No. Not unless I'm just about to eat .. but then I wash before eating as I was taught to do as a child.

    My foibles include being ultra picky about dust .. not so much in my own home, but out and about. You see, my allergies are used to my own dust, but other people's can really set me off!

  11. I don't wash my hands as often as you do but I DO like my hands to be clean. I'm sure it cuts down on many illnesses. I'm surprised you still caught Barry's cold though. Shame on him for sharing! :)

  12. I used to have the opposite problem - I don't think I washed my hands enough. In the bathroom and before preparing food - yes, but my sister told me how I should wash my hands after shopping etc. and she was right so I try to wash more. I'll bet you don't get sick often!

    My compulsions? I find myself thinking about the same thing over and over. It drives me crazy.

  13. Maybe you could wear gloves more often to protect your hands.

  14. Love the post.

    My fear (or respect, at least) of fire makes me check the stove before bed. And I have to touch the knob--even when I can see it's off. Argh.

  15. Nope, I'm not an OC hand-washer... but I may have become an OC blogger! LOL! I think I don't get sick because every germ on earth is already crawling on and in me... whereas the over-sterilized are not immune. Ahem, did you say you have a cold...? :-)

    [I just posted about Croatia again and thought of you. How was your son's trip?]

  16. You and I have very similar routines when it comes to hand washing. Having cats around, working with cats, and having worked with children in the past all contribute to my compulsion.

    I was thrilled when the public restrooms started installing hands free faucets and soap dispensers.

    I concur, hand creams and lotions are the answer.


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