The pleasure of washing one’s hands

May 3, 2020 • 12:00 pm

One of the things I discovered about myself during the pandemic—perhaps the only good thing—is the immense pleasure I get from washing my hands. It’s a pleasure that I didn’t have before. Like most of you, I suspect, I do it many times a day—every time after I visit the duck pond or touch a door or use the bathroom. And I do it the right way, taking a good twenty seconds au minimum, working up a good lather, scrubbing my thumbs and between my fingers, and soaping up my fingertips, palms, and back of my hands. At home I use my favorite soap: a big round bar of Mysore sandalwood soap (I buy it in the 12-pack) with the wonderful smell.

At the end, as I dry my hands on a fluffy towel, I have a deep feeling of satisfaction. I’d almost call it erotic, but that would make me look like a perv. Let’s just say it’s pleasurable—the pleasure of a job well done. And then I can scratch my nose if it itches!

I used to get no pleasure from washing my hands: I did it regularly but dutifully, and it was a chore. Now it’s a pleasure, and of course that pleasure has beneficial side effects.  Does that seem pathetic? Will I revert to the dutiful feeling after the pandemic?

What things have you discovered about yourself during the pandemic? Oh, and something else I discovered is that one can read too much, especially if it’s the only thing you can do during lockdown. But maybe that’s because I’m distracted and find it hard to concentrate on a good book.

29 thoughts on “The pleasure of washing one’s hands

  1. Agree with you about the newly recognized pleasure of hand washing.

    What are you reading? What works best for me is two or three books at the same time, just now a Department Q mystery by Jussi Adler-Olsen from the library, Defoe’s Plague Years in a used paperback, an Oxford Book of English Prose sent by a friend.

    1. Right now three things, but mostly the collected short stories of Katherine Mansfield. Also Boudry and Pigliucci’s collection of essays on scientism and a big book on the Shroud of Turin.

  2. Yes, call us pervs, but I too now take note of the satisfaction of hand washing. A couple of other things for me: since eating is so easy, I have taken to an every-four-day fast; something I have never done before. It’s much easier than I thought it would be, and I am steadily losing a few pounds. Second, I am not a big fan of country music, but rather have a fairly eclectic taste from Amadeus to ZZ. However, I have enjoyed watching the live broadcasts from the Opry on Circle TV, and was even inspired to write a song about the Circle – feedback welcome over at my place 🙂

  3. With respect to hand washing, I find the hand towels get too wet too soon. I have to turn them around, then set them aside. Agree about the reading. I’ll be going through a long magazine piece and decide I don’t have time for this shit, as if I had anything else.

  4. My lockdown on my rather scruffy farm in the mountains of mid-France has been made the easier by those most charming of visitors… teenage duckies!
    I have kept ducks for 25 years. They are really special… highly intelligent, and able to form quite complex strategies, which I have not seen in other creatures.
    But ducks always bring disappointment… Of the 22 eggs, about 13 hatch. The first three days about four or six little yellow duckies are found dead in the morning. Mummy duck takes the remaining seven down to the pond, and out into the swamp, but the smallest is often left behind, and cannot be found. After a month I am down to four healthy teenage duckies, who come boldly into the Conservatory for grain.
    Cats and ducks make a good family.
    I’d love to talk of the complex strategies developed by ducks to get at food, but another time.
    By the way, Conrad Lorenz who never owned ducks was quite wrong in his observations. They were following his bucket, and not him!

  5. While washing my hands, I was thinking about how hand washing compares to tooth brushing. I use an electric toothbrush. It is vastly superior to manual brushing for one reason – you brush longer. If I use a regular manual toothbrush, I find it hard to go for more than 45 seconds. With the electric, I go for more than the recommended two minutes. The timer shuts off the brush but I restart it because I think there are parts of my mouth that did not get sufficient attention. So manual brushing is a laborious chore while electric brushing is not.

    I find hand washing pleasurable. I wash for way more than 20 seconds. The tactile feel of working your hands together is getting into the erotic. So manual tooth brushing sucks, electric tooth brushing is OK, hand washing is great.

      1. Just another lifeform trying to make its way in the world… But yes, from a self-serving point of view I’ll be very happy to see it added to the list of extinctions caused by humans.

        1. Not capable of self-replication so technically not a life form, if that’ll add further satisfaction.

  6. After a long time of being on either Atkins or Keto diets, I find that my former addiction to salty chips and sugar in chocolate has returned with a vengeance, resulting in weight gain. Having been retired and relatively inactive for a number of years, I broke my right humerus over Christmas 2019, therefore my activity level has further diminished into the present. Adds to weight gain. I watch too many internet news shows and, then, I gravitate towards comedians and humor to counteract. Sitting on derrière adds to weight gain. Too much snoozing and more than usual weird dreams. More weight. I read, as always, but find it harder to concentrate. I roam around my house in my comfy long tee shirt night gown rather than dressing. I send messages or call relatives and friends frequently to make certain we’re all still here. I continue to plan a road trip that I probably won’t be able to take for a year or two (and hope I’m not too old and debilitated to travel by then), but find pleasure in the planning. I do a lot of internet window shopping but, for the most part, don’t buy (except for books, of which I already have too many but the appetite for which is insatiable.)Pretty exciting stuff, eh?!

  7. I have always been a compulsive hand washer, so nothing new for me in that regard. I can’t say I’ve discovered many pleasant routines, except perhaps sleeping in more, but I found plenty I don’t like. Wearing a mask above all, endless use of purel, standing in line at grocery stores and other social spacing fetishes, and listening to endless commercials telling me “they are there for me in these uncertain times”, and of course the “We are all in this together” mantra.

  8. I agree about handwashing. I’d called it volupté. I think it’s better, tho less pleasurable, to dry on a paper towel and then throw the towel away. More hygienic.

  9. I’ve always enjoyed washing hands. When I pick my nose I wash my hands afterwards. I wash my hands a lot. One reason I like masks: I don’t touch my face.

    Also, I used to be a cook, so I washed about 100 times an hour. Not sure other cooks did that.

  10. That bit I learned about washing ones’ thumbs. I did not know before about the need for that. I am sure I will forever think about these strange times every time I wash my hands, and now my thumbs.

  11. One aspect of lockdown that has surprised me is that I am more afflicted by earworms than ever. Those songs you can’t get out of your head are both more frequent and more enduring than ever.

  12. Lockdown in the UK means being let out for work, shopping and exercise. I’m retired, so strike out number one. I do the Sainsbury’s shop once a week, lining up in the Old Farts’ Queue for 8am. That’s number two.

    And I get out every day for a walk. We live near the edge of town, so that’s not hard. But our wise Government has said that we can drive our cars into the country for our exercise, so long as we don’t drive too far.

    I reckon I’ve done roughly 60-70 miles over the past week. Most of the few people my wife and I have met have been people of our own age. And the courtesy with which we step aside to let each other pass by, more than 2m apart, is most edifying! It might catch on, you never know.

  13. I was taught to wash my hands after relieving myself, or before making or eating food.

    But a few years back I came over the statistics of 1) how the introduction of easily available soap broke the rising death rate in early London – the first antibiotic – and 2) studies that showed how useful even soap is in removing germs in 20 s of hand washing. So I started to do such a long wash after hand shakes [remember those!?], after coming home et cetera.

    The pandemic was finally a reason to learn *how* to do it. Never too late to learn! There are readily available and generally agreed on instructions this time around. I didn’t have a UV lamp as some videos had to show that it worked. Instead I rigged up a test with a fat skin lotion and some available pigments (I used coffee, since I was near a kitchen) to check how to do it right and to check later that I did learn – the nail/finger contacts and finger bases were trickier to get clean.

  14. I too now take pleasure in hand washing. Weird. I’ve also taken up baking sourdough bread, which is another thing that seemed to spontaneously become popular. It seems like a real “thing” now.

  15. I find hand washing mildly unpleasant in that it dries out my skin and necessitates the use of hand lotion, which I find very slimy and unpleasant.

    I haven’t had a lot of downtime during this quarantine, but I have had a lot of alone (other than a baby, and he doesn’t talk) time. I have realized that parenthood reorganizes one’s attention drastically. Now I understand why new parents often can’t talk about anything except whether or not their kid tried mashed peas that day. Suddenly this becomes one’s only interest. It’s strange, but it’s true. I think this makes sense from a survival perspective, although I wonder if I’ll ever feel like starting a new hobby again. In the meantime, I will continue my avid interest in mashed vegetables, which mostly get flung at my face.

  16. I have long been bugged by the fact that the door in public bathrooms always seems to be set so that you have to pull in order to exit the bathroom. This means you have to grasp the handle which has previously been grasped by other users some (many?) of whom have not been fastidious about washing their hands after completing their business. Potentially therefore you immediately reinfect your hands after washing your own.

    I can’t see a good reason why the doors can’t be set up to open the other way so that you can exit by pushing it open with your foot. If the door opens onto a corridor that people might be walking along it would not be difficult to direct the traffic flow (if necessary with a small barrier) such that there is no danger of someone walking into a door suddenly opening into their path.

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