With the Coronavirus spreading rapidly, we’re all being told to wash our hands with soap and hot water. But how hot does water have to be to kill germs, and should you alter the settings on your water heater to achieve it? Here are some things to consider.
Too Hot for Hand-Washing
While it’s possible to kill bacteria with hot water alone, you’d have to burn your hands in order to get it hot enough. Most people can tolerate 110 degrees for a short time, but that’s about it. Specific water temperatures for killing germs are difficult to pinpoint, but consider the EPA’s recommendation for boiling drinking water when bacteria is believed to be in city water. It has to reach 212 degrees to reliably kill bacteria and pathogens. There’s no way your hands can tolerate that!
The truth is that, according to Dr. Raymond Pontzer, director of infection prevention for UPMC in Pittsburgh, there is no evidence that the actual temperature of the water has anything to do with the antimicrobial properties of hand washing. Water itself works as a physical cleanser to wash organisms and microbes off the hands, but you have to scrub thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds to get rid of germs and viruses. Researchers have found that temperature actually does affect hand washing in that it allows people to stay comfortable to wash their hands long enough. If water at 100 degrees helps you keep your hands under the faucet longer than cold water would, then go for it.
Don’t Change Your Hot Water Heating Settings
Long story short, you do not have to set your hot water heater at 150 degrees to ensure you won’t get Coronavirus. Doing so would simply make it more likely that your family will end up being scalded in a hot shower. Instead, stock up on soap, scrub often, and continue social distancing!
All of us at Putman Plumbing hope you all stay healthy!!