"Hand sanitizer is not an alternative to washing hands," behavior specialist Jaralee Metcalf said

By Claudia Harmata
December 18, 2019 02:14 PM

With flu season in full swing, two classroom educators wanted to show their students just how important it is to wash hands.

Teacher Dayna Robertson, 38, and behavior specialist Jaralee Metcalf, 23, supervised their special education students in conducting a month-long experiment intended to illustrate how germs from hands can spread.

Metcalf shared the moldy results on Facebook nearly two weeks ago, and her post has since gone viral, with 64,000 shares and 17,000 likes as of Wednesday.

“We did a science project in class this last month as flu season was starting. We took fresh bread and touched it. We did one slice untouched. One with unwashed hands. One with hand sanitizer. One with washed hands with warm water and soap. Then we decided to rub a piece on all our classroom Chromebooks,” she wrote.

Bread Experiment
Courtesy Jaralee Annice Metcalf

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Students touched the pieces of plain white bread with dirty hands, after washing with soap and water and after using hand sanitizer before sealing the pieces in plastic bags and letting them sit for three to four weeks.

The results: “This is so DISGUSTING!!!” Metcalf wrote on Facebook.

A piece of bread wiped on Chromebook computers was almost completely black by the end of the experiment, while the one touched by dirty hands wasn’t much different, with two large patches of yellow and green mold beginning to turn black. Even the slice touched by students after using hand sanitizer had a big patch of mold growing on the side.

“If the bread had been exposed to air and moisture, the experiment may have gone faster,” Metcalf told Parents. “The breads that were very clearly exposed to different germs grew mold quicker. And ones touched by clean hands plus the soap and water ones were not exposed to the germs that cause the mold growth to quicken.”

Courtesy Jaralee Annice Metcalf
Courtesy Jaralee Annice Metcalf

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The behavioral specialist also made sure to point out that the results proved that hand sanitizer is not an alternative to washing hands.

“As somebody who is sick and tired of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Wash your hands! Remind your kids to wash their hands!” she wrote on Facebook. “And hand sanitizer is not an alternative to washing hands!! At all!”

Courtesy Jaralee Annice Metcalf
Courtesy Jaralee Annice Metcalf
Courtesy Jaralee Annice Metcalf

It was a lesson that students didn’t take lightly, Robertson told Today.

“The students all thought it was gross,” Robertson told the outlet. “They have really turned their hand-washing around [since the experiment]. They realized that sanitizer doesn’t cut it, and they’ve got to do soap and water.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterates that regular hand-washing can prevent illness as it is one of the best ways to remove and prevent the spread of germs.