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Persistent Odor

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Does the persistence of a foul odor on hands, despite thorough washing with soap and water, indicate the presence of lingering germs that may pose a risk of illness?

If your hands still smell like poop even after washing them rigorously with soap and water, it does not necessarily mean that there are still germs on them that can make you sick. There can be several reasons why the smell persists, and it may not always be related to the presence of harmful bacteria. Let's explore some possible explanations:

  1. Residual Odor: Sometimes, the smell of poop can linger on your hands even after washing due to residual odor molecules that are difficult to remove completely [1]. These molecules can be trapped in the skin's pores or under the nails, leading to the persistent smell.

  2. Ineffective Handwashing Technique: It's important to ensure that you are washing your hands properly to remove any potential germs. Make sure to use enough soap, lather all surfaces of your hands (including between fingers and under nails), and scrub for at least 20 seconds before rinsing thoroughly with water [1]. If you are not following these steps correctly, it could contribute to the lingering smell.

  3. Odor Absorption: Some substances, like certain foods or chemicals, can be absorbed by the skin and cause lingering odors on the hands [3]. For example, pungent foods like garlic or onion can leave a sulfur-like smell on your hands even after washing. Similarly, handling certain metals or medications can also contribute to unusual hand odors.

  4. Underlying Medical Conditions: In rare cases, persistent foul odors on the hands could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Conditions like trimethylaminuria (a metabolic disorder) or pitted keratolysis (a bacterial infection) can cause unusual odors on the skin, including a fecal-like smell [3]. If you suspect a medical condition, it's best to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

To address the persistent smell on your hands, you can try the following tips:

  • Scrub your hands thoroughly with soap and water, paying attention to all surfaces, including between fingers and under nails.
  • Use a nail brush to clean under your nails.
  • Rinse your hands thoroughly with water to remove all soap residue.
  • Consider using an antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer to further eliminate potential odor-causing bacteria.
  • If the smell persists, try using odor-absorbing substances like stainless steel, white vinegar, baking soda, salt scrub, or lemon juice to neutralize the odor [3].

Learn more:

  1. Why Do My Hands Smell Weird Even After Washing?
  2. How to get stool smell off of your hands? - General Nursing Support
  3. 6 Causes of Bad or Strange Hand Odor, According to a Doctor | livestrong
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