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Husband’s Obsessive Hand Washing Drives Wife Crazy

Q. My husband is almost obsessive about washing his hands. Your columns have reinforced his worries that cold and flu germs lurk on every door knob, banister and elevator button. If he shakes hands with someone he can hardly wait to wash his hands.
When I complain that he’s overdoing it, he points out that he hasn’t had a cold for two years. But his hands are like sandpaper. He refuses to use my hand cream because he says it smells girlie. He also complains that if he uses a moisturizer it messes up his computer mouse.
Is there any skin cream that guys can use and feel manly?

A. Hand washing can be helpful in preventing the spread of colds and other common viruses. But it is possible to carry things too far. Washing too often is hard on skin.
Farmers found years ago that the salve they put on cows’ udders to keep them from chapping was also helpful for their own hands. This old-fashioned barnyard aid known as Bag Balm certainly does not smell “girlie,” but it does smell. It contains petroleum jelly, lanolin and a disinfectant. Farmers found that massaging this salve on udders made their own chapped hands feel much better.
We have heard from people in many other walks of life about the benefits of Bag Balm. One testimonial came from a letter carrier:
“After walking on cement all day at work my feet are burning and tired. I soak them first, rub Bag Balm into them and rest my feet on a stool while watching TV. Then I put on white socks and go to bed. Next morning my feet are like babies’ skin and I can go for miles.”
For those who find the smell of Bag Balm overpowering, a far more pleasant alternative is Udderly Smooth Udder Cream, which also does a good job as a moisturizer.
Here is what a veterinarian wrote about Udderly Smooth Cream:

“I wash my hands close to 50 times per day. You can imagine what that does to my skin. By the end of the week my knuckles would be red and raw if it weren’t for Udder Cream.”

Harpists, quilters, auto mechanics and housewives have all applauded the power of these low-tech, old-fashioned moisturizers. Udder Cream used to be relegated to farm supply or feed stores in rural areas. Now you can find Udderly Smooth Udder Cream is carried by pharmacies and discount chains. You can also find it online. Full disclosure: The wonderful folks at Redex Industries (makes of Udderly Smooth) have been underwriting our radio show for years.
To avoid problems with the computer mouse, your husband should apply the moisturizer before bed and wear white cotton gloves from a photo supply store.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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