How to properly wash your hands

How to Properly Wash Your Hands

One of the best ways to keep you and your family healthy is by properly washing your hands. Despite being taught to wash our hands as children, many of us don’t know the proper techniques for washing our hands correctly, or how often we should be performing this important task. We’ll walk you through the proper steps as laid out by the leading health organizations around the globe such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

When should you wash your hands?

The major health organizations have a general list of activities that they recommend washing your hands before, during and after. 

Wash your hands before:

  • Preparing and eating food
  • Treating a cut or wound
  • Caring for someone who is ill

Wash your hands during:

  • Food preparation

Wash your hands after:

  • Food preparation
  • Treating a cut or wound
  • Using the restroom
  • Changing a diaper
  • Cleaning a child who has used the restroom
  • Coming in contact with animals, animal food, or animal waste (pets included)
  • After coming in contact with garbage
  • Blowing your nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Caring for someone who is ill

What are the proper hand washing steps?

To effectively kill germs and help prevent the spread of infectious disease, it’s important that you know how to properly wash your hands. Following these steps will help keep you and your loved ones healthy.

  • Get your hands wet using clean, running water. Turn off the tap and then apply your soap. The water can be any temperature, you don’t need to have hot water. Also, any soap will do, you don’t necessarily need antibacterial soap.
  • Work the soap into a lather by rubbing your hands together with the soap. Be sure to lather every part of your hands front and back as well as between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have a watch or a clock available, this is roughly the amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. You can use that to make sure you reach 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands using clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or let them air dry.

To see proper hand washing technique in action, please watch this video from the CDC.

How long should you wash your hands?

It’s recommended that you wash your hands for 20 seconds once you’ve wet your hands and lathered them up.

How should you dry your hands?

While many people pay attention to how they wash their hands, it’s easy to ruin the process by drying your hands correctly. Having clean towels are critical to keeping your hands clean. Once you’ve rinsed your hands, be sure to use a clean towel or air dry them if a clean towel is not available.

Can I use hand sanitizer instead of washing my hands?

The CDC recommends the use of soap over hand sanitizer for getting rid of germs. This is because hand sanitizers aren’t as effective at getting rid of all types of germs, and they also don’t work as well removing certain chemicals and metals. Another issue with hand sanitizers is that they often don’t work well if your hands are greasy or caked with dirt or contaminants. That said, running water and soap aren’t always readily available. In these cases, they recommend using a hand sanitizer that has a minimum alcohol content of 60%. Any sanitizer you purchase should have the percentage listed on the label. 

How to properly use hand sanitizer

Using hand sanitizer effectively is very similar to some of the steps for proper hand washing. These are the correct steps for using hand sanitizer:

  • Apply the sanitizer into one of your palms, using the amount recommended on the sanitizer’s label. 
  • Rub your hands together as if you were using soap, covering all areas of your hands including between your fingers, the fronts and backs, and the fingernails.
  • Rub the sanitizer over your hands for 20 seconds or until the sanitizer has dried.