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c. 1900s

Vintage hand-washing posters

We all need reminding.

The World Health Organization has had a recommended method of hand-washing since 2009. It’s an 11-step process that, all done, takes 42.5 sections. It includes a single-use paper towel.

From the Netherlands: “Paper is good but hand washing is better.”

Mind you, the WHO is following in an age-old practice — it was a doctor from Hungary, Ignaz Semmelweis, who was the first to promote the scientific value of hand-washing in the 1800s. 
The conclusion followed his frustration at being unable to find a cause for the deaths of women in bed after childbirth.

From Soviet Russia: “Dirty hands mean trouble. In order to not get sick, be cultured: before eating, wash your hands with soap!”

When one of Semmelweis’ colleagues also died of “childbed fever,” it was clear the illness was not specific to the women who had given birth, but could be passed from one person to another. Semmelweis immediately introduced enforced hand-washing.

Don’t knock it. The Centers for Disease Control describe hand-washing as “do-it-yourself vaccination.” Yet, as all these posters show, dating from across the 20th century, we all need reminding.

From Soviet Russia: “Dirty hands are a source of infection. Wash your hands after work and before eating.”⠀
From Britain.
From the USA⠀
From the USA: “Wash your hands before touching your eyes”
National Archives
From the USA: “Wash your hands often”
National Archives
From the Netherlands: “And paper option is good / Washing hands is better”

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