How can I sterilise my skin?

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Rebel Yeh

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How can I sterilise my skin?
« on: 30/09/2011 14:01:09 »
Rebel Yeh  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi, a microbiologist told me that cleaning my hands with soap and water, or a hand sanitizer will eliminate most organisms that are not part of my normal body flora. I want to eliminate ALL of the organisms that are not a part of my normal body flora, not MOST. So I was wondering, is it possible to get rid of all the germs on my hands? If so, how can I do it? If not, why not?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 30/09/2011 14:01:09 by _system »


Offline Nizzle

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How can I sterilise my skin?
« Reply #1 on: 04/10/2011 10:54:24 »
Desinfectants work best. You could wash your skin with rubbing alcohol for example, which will work better than soap. Most hand sanitizers already contain alcohol.

Be careful though with open wounds, cause that might sting.

And lastly, it's nigh impossible to get rid of ALL the organisms that are not part of your normal body flora. And if somehow you would succeed, you'd only be germ free for about 5 minutes...
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Offline Don_1

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How can I sterilise my skin?
« Reply #2 on: 04/10/2011 15:50:33 »
I think advertising campaigns by the industry have rather got through to you, and many others into the bargain. We seem to have become obsessed with cleanliness. We have cleaners and antibacterials for our floors, walls, carpets, ceilings, work surfaces, sinks, baths, showers, toilets, cutlery, crockery, pots and pans, oven, microwave, fridge and freezer......... good grief, we even have a cleaner to clean the cleaner!!!!

Hand wash, body wash, foot wash, shampoo, left buttock wash, right buttock wash, eye wash........ yep, and that just about sums it up.... eye wash!

A little bit of dirt does you good.
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Offline CliffordK

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How can I sterilise my skin?
« Reply #3 on: 04/10/2011 17:19:54 »
You will be unable to differentiate between Flora and Pathogens.  And, keep in mind that many of the types of flora bacteria are pathogenic if they get to where they aren't supposed to be.

For example, Staph Epidermidis is normally not a major problem on the skin, however, if it infects a surgical implant such as an artificial knee, it can be a major problem.

Typically you also need a balance between types of flora.  Create an imbalance, and you have problems.

Talk to a surgeon about washing hands.  They have antimicrobial soaps, and use special scrubbers to wash around the cuticles and fingernails.  Lots of water is used that is allowed to run from the finger tips down to the elbows, and I believe the entire process takes several minutes. 

Look up "Surgical Hand Washing" or Scrub/Scrubbing on the internet.

Keep in mind that it is pointless to sterilize your hands, then use the towel hanging on the wall.  You should only dry your hands with a sterile towel.  And, you certainly wouldn't want to touch the door knob when exiting the bathroom.

The problem is that doing all this is very harsh on your hands, and is of little benefit to you, or anyone else, except in the case of the surgeons who use it as a second line of defense in case a glove is compromised, and would otherwise risk causing a serious internal infection.

Also, keep in mind that the excessive use of antimicrobial soaps helps bacteria build up resistance to the antimicrobial agents.  This is a very serious issue, and could put you, or others at serious risk in cases where local sterilization is required for medical treatment. 

In many cases, as long as you are "normal", you need to be exposed to the normal environmental bacteria, flora, and pathogens.  The main exceptions would be in a medical setting, or if you or someone around you is seriously immune compromised. 


Offline Phil1907

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How can I sterilise my skin?
« Reply #4 on: 14/10/2011 14:30:08 »
Your title re. "sterilization" of skin is not practically achievable.  Microbial flora are on and in skin and, failing complete destruction of all viability (microbial and your) of the target skin, this can not be achieved.   As Cifford pointed out, so-called normal flora can include pathogens - e.g. many of us carry staph aureus - and in an immuocompromised setting, almost any microbe can establish a pathology.  Antimicrobial treatments from alcohl to iodine can mitigate but not eliminate risk of contamination from hands in medical settings - and without discrimination of normal vs. transient flora.  Not only do these not penetrate skin but their limited effect is made obvious by recalls of those materials due to microbial contamination.

Why do you want to eliminate all that is not "normal flora"?


Offline The Penguin

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How can I sterilise my skin?
« Reply #5 on: 17/10/2011 05:13:24 »
This seems like a rather bad idea. If you were successful at removing each and every microbe on your skin, you would run into quite an issue when you enter back into normal activity. Your normal flora is your body's first line of defense. Microbes that are helpful to your body actually out-compete and protect you from other foreign microbes. You would be susceptible to a plethora of microbes that could potentially make you sick and cause skin issues.