How to dry your hands with one paper towel

Handwashing stories are among the hardy perennials of medical journalism, as handwashing is among the leading exhortations of infectious disease specialists: It’s not done enough, it’s not done correctly. I understand the importance of handwashing — I learned about Ignaz Semmelweis from a children’s TV show back when I was a child — but I can’t help feeling that some of the handwashing messages involve a bit of victim-blaming.

Then along comes Joe Smith, a lawyer and sometime state politician in Oregon. In 2012, he gave a TEDx talk about how to dry your hands after washing them in a public washroom using only one paper towel, even the flimsy recycled kind, thus saving millions of pounds of paper towel a year.

Feel free to watch his 4.5-minute presentation (it’s not particularly entertaining), but the technique is this:

  • Shake your hands 12 times after washing.
  • Take a piece of paper towel and fold it in half before using.
  • Voila! Dry hands.

Smith threatened promised to give another TED talk on how to use one square of toilet paper. I don’t know whether he’s given it yet, — I haven’t been able to find it online. I’ll bet it gives ID doctors the heebie-jeebies, but it put me in mind of the “I don’t have a square to spare” episode of Seinfeld (which is entertaining).

3 responses

  1. As I was standing in a public bathroom recently that was running short on paper towels. I remember this TED presentation!

  2. Ah…TED…

    The best, occasionally, and much of the worst…

  3. This is great! Thanks, so nice of you to roll out this fun bit of info.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: