Fox News host Pete Hegseth isn’t the only one not washing his hands properly

Plenty of people besides Fox News host Pete Hegseth could use a refresher on handwashing.

The weekend “Fox and Friends” presenter went viral after revealing on the air Sunday morning that “I don’t think I’ve washed my hands for 10 years.” (Fox News parent 21st Century Fox

FOX, -0.22%

  and MarketWatch parent News Corp

NWSA, -1.93%

  share common ownership.)

While his cohosts Ed Henry and Jedediah Bila laughed, he added that, “I inoculate myself. Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them; therefore, they’re not real.”

Fox News’ @PeteHegseth admits, unprompted, that he hasn’t washed his hands in 10 years.

“Germs are not a real thing,” Pete says. “I can’t see them, therefore they’re not real.”

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 10, 2019

This tested the gag reflex of many viewers, who responded on Twitter with comments like, “Remind me never to accept a dinner invitation to his house. Or shake his hand.”

Fox News spokesperson Jaclyn Giuliano told USA Today that Hegseth “was joking.” And Hegseth also suggested he was telling a dirty joke on Twitter, responding to a tweet from MSNBC host Chris Hayes (which also suggested it was a joke) that, “When even @chrislhayes can see the obvious...Twitter really has come full circle.”

Whether it was just a dirty joke or not, however, there are plenty of people out there whose hygiene habits could work you up into a lather.

Many of the things you thought you were doing right when washing your hands — using hot water, choosing antimicrobial soap — don’t make much of a difference at all. That’s according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Food Protection that took a deep dive into hand washing, as well as other recent research. In fact, only 5% of people that Michigan State University researchers observed washing their hands in public bathrooms were doing it correctly.

This is the way to keep your hands clean.

“The literature on hand washing, while extensive, often contains conflicting data, and key variables are only superficially studied or not studied at all,” the authors wrote of the motivation for their research. “Some hand-washing recommendations are made without scientific support, and agreement between recommendations is limited.”

Don’t miss: Why you should stop freaking out about hygiene and let your kids eat dirt

Here are some of the things you may be doing wrong when washing your hands.

  • You don’t lather for long enough. The best way to cut the amount of bacteria on your hands is to lather them for at least 20 seconds – try to sing "Happy Birthday" at least twice to help time yourself – according to the study, which has people wash for five seconds, 10 seconds and 20 seconds. Lather time was the only thing the researchers found that significantly reduced bacteria.Your fellow Americans almost never lather for long enough though: As noted above, when researchers from Michigan State University watched people washing their hands in public restrooms, they found that only 5% washed their hands long enough.
  • You worry too much about the water temperature. Participants washed their hands with water temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the study, which looked at 320 different hand washes and their impact on E.coli elimination. That made no difference on reducing the amount of bacteria on hands.
  • You’re super picky about the type of soap you use. Using an antimicrobial soap, as opposed to just a simple, bland soap, won’t make a difference, the study showed. What’s more, this comes on the heels of an FDA ruling about antibacterial soaps: “We have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (Though antimicrobial and antibacterial are often used interchangeably, there is a difference, as Microban notes: “While antibacterial products prevent the development of bacteria, antimicrobial agents such as alcohol-based hand sanitizers prevent the spread of bacteria, fungi, and some viruses.”)

And washing your hands wrong— or not at all — can cost you money. Indeed, the CDC notes that handwashing “is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others,” and finds that productivity losses linked to absenteeism costs employers $225.8 billion annually in America, or $1,685 per employee.