Yes, water for handwashing does not have to be as clean as water for drinking. Studies have shown that if you wash your hands with soap and relatively highly contaminated water, your hands will still be left clean. This shows just how effective soap is at removing pathogens from hands (see ‘Why does handwashing with soap work so well to prevent COVID-19?’ for more information). So if water is scarce where you work, you may be able to convince people to keep the water they use for laundry, for example, and store this for handwashing use. However it’s important to note that in many places reusing water like this is not considered to be culturally acceptable, particularly if water is soapy.  

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Editor's note

Author: Sian White
Review: Katie Greenland, Ammar Fawzi
Last update: 13.04.2020

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