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Spread the Soap, Not the Germs

Difficulty
Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability To do this science project you'll need to order Glo GermTM over the Internet. See the Materials and Equipment section for more details.
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues

Abstract

Do you wash your hands? You should— it's the best way to prevent the spread of germs. But germs can be tricky; they find nooks and crannies to hide in, so it takes good hand-washing technique to get rid of them. In this science project, you'll investigate which parts of the hand are the most difficult to wash germs off of.

Objective

In this science project, you will investigate which parts of the hand are the most difficult to wash germs off of.

Credits

Sandra Slutz, PhD, Science Buddies

This science project is based on this DragonflyTV podcast:
TPT. (2006). Glo Germ by Jordan and Sydney. DragonflyTV, Twin Cities Public Television. Retrieved March 27, 2008 from http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/show/glogerm.html

Glo GermTM is a trademark of Glo Germ Company.

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Spread the Soap, Not the Germs" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 6 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/MicroBio_p018.shtml?from=Blog>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 6). Spread the Soap, Not the Germs. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/MicroBio_p018.shtml?from=Blog

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Last edit date: 2014-10-06

Introduction

"Cough, cough, cough! Achoo!"

"Oh no, stay away from me! I don't want your germs!"

You may know that germs are something you don't want, and that they can be spread from one person to another, especially by coughing and sneezing. But what are germs? Germs are tiny little organisms, too small to be seen without a microscope. Not all germs make us sick, but many are the causes of a wide variety of common illnesses. For example, one type of germ, viruses, cause the flu and can also cause us to get a cold. Viruses need to be inside a human, animal, or plant to grow and multiply. Unlike viruses, bacteria, another type of germ, can live on their own. They're found in many different environments, but some prefer to live inside humans and these sometimes cause illnesses such as food poisoning or a really bad sore throat called strep throat.

Watch DragonflyTV glo germ video
Watch this video of a GloGerm investigation,
produced by DragonflyTV and
presented by pbskidsgo.org.
Watch this DragonflyTV GloGerm video http://www.pbskids.org/dragonflytv/show/glogerm.html

Everyone gets sick sometimes, and it is pretty hard to avoid every germ all the time, but you can prevent the spread of germs by carefully washing your hands. Germs are everywhere and when we touch things, we get germs on our hands. Then we touch other things and those germs spread from object to object and person to person.

In this video from DragonflyTV, Jordan and Sydney do a science experiment to see how germs spread. They want to know which leads to the spread of more germs: covering your nose with your hands or with your elbow when you sneeze. Since germs are too small to easily track, Jordan and Sydney use a powder called Glo Germ, which can only be seen under an ultraviolet light, to simulate the spread of germs. Which technique do you think spreads more germs? Watch the video and find out!

According to health professionals, carefully washing your hands for 20 seconds (that's about as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice) in warm water with soap will eliminate most germs and keep you healthier. But germs can be tricky; they find nooks and crannies to hide in, so it takes good hand-washing technique to get rid of them. In this science project, you'll use Glo Germ to investigate which parts of the hand are the most difficult to wash germs off of.

Terms and Concepts

  • Germ
  • Virus
  • Bacteria
  • Simulate

Questions

  • What are germs?
  • How do germs spread?
  • Do germs make people sick?
  • What is the proper way to wash your hands?
  • When is it a good idea to wash your hands?

Bibliography

This science project was based on the DragonflyTV podcast:

Other good information about germs and hand washing can be found at these websites:

More information about Glo Germ can be found at their company website:

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Materials and Equipment

  • Glo Germ Mini Kit (comes with Glo Germ gel and an ultraviolet pen light for seeing the Glo Germ). This product can be purchased online from Amazon.com
  • Volunteers, minimum of five
  • Sink with running water
  • Soap
  • Lab notebook
  • Graph paper

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Experimental Procedure

For this science project, follow the experimental procedure below with as many volunteers as you can.

  1. Applying the Glo Germ Gel
    1. Squeeze a nickel-sized amount of the Glo Germ gel on the palms of your volunteers' hands.
    2. Have your volunteers rub their hands together as if they were applying hand lotion. Make sure they completely cover their hands, including around their fingernails and in between their fingers.
  2. Once the Glo Germ gel has been applied, have your volunteers wash their hands with soap and water. Even though they now know where the Glo Germ is on their hands, since you directed them to completely cover their hands, fingernails, and in-between their fingers, be sure they wash their hands as they normally would.
  3. Now shine the ultraviolet pen light on their hands. Look carefully for any "glowing germs."
    1. Doing this step in a darkened room or closet makes it easier to see.
    2. Are there any? Where are they located— on the palms, fingers, back of hands, around the fingernails? In your lab notebook, make a data table, like the one below, showing all the possible parts of the hand that germs might be found on. For each test subject, insert a check mark for each part of the hand where you observed "germs" after hand washing.
MicroBiology  Science Project Parts of the hand where germs might be found
These images show different parts of the hand where you might find germs.

Test Subject Palm Back of Hands Fingers Between Fingers Around Fingernails
#1         
#2         
#3         
#4         
#5         
  1. After you've done this procedure with all your test subjects, add the number of check marks for each column in your data table. How many people had "germs" left on each part of their hand? Make a bar graph showing your results. Which hand part was least likely to get clean? What conclusions can you draw about the effectiveness of people's hand-washing techniques?

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Variations

  • Does the length of time spent washing your hands impact how many germs are left after hand washing? Repeat the science project above, this time using a stopwatch and having your volunteers wash their hands for different lengths of time, like 10, 20, and 40 seconds. Remember to have at least three volunteers participate in each time trial.
  • Once they're on your hands where do the germs go? Do they get transferred to other objects? Design an experiment, using the Glo Germ, to examine where the "glowing germs" go.
  • Try repeating Jordan and Sydney's experiment to find out whether covering your nose with your elbow when you sneeze spreads fewer germs than covering your nose with your hands. Do your results match the DragonflyTV results?

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Ask an Expert

The Ask an Expert Forum is intended to be a place where students can go to find answers to science questions that they have been unable to find using other resources. If you have specific questions about your science fair project or science fair, our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.

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Reading level:
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