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How to Wash your Hands

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


Why handwashing is important:

Your hands carry germs even when they look clean. Germs can spread when you touch someone, or when you touch a surface or object with germs on it. Wash your hands often to help prevent you from getting sick or spreading germs to others.

How to wash your hands correctly:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water. Apply soap.
  • Rub the soap over the front and back of your hands and between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand.
  • Rub your hands together for 20 seconds. This is about the amount of time it takes to sing the happy birthday song 2 times.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel, or let them air dry.
  • Use a paper towel to turn the faucet off. If you share a bathroom with other people, use the paper towel to open the door when you leave.
  • Hand sanitizer gels and wipes can be used to clean your hands if soap and water are not available. The alcohol in the sanitizer helps kill germs on your hands. Rub the gel all over your hands until it dries.

When to wash your hands:

  • Before you prepare, cook, and eat food
  • After you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose
  • After you go to the bathroom, help a child go to the bathroom, or change a diaper
  • After you touch an animal or clean up animal waste
  • Before and after you clean or care for a cut or other wound
  • Before and after you touch someone who is sick
  • After you touch garbage

Other tips to know:

  • Do not touch your face without washing your hands first. You can transfer a virus or other germs from your hands to your face. This can quickly lead to an infection.
  • Cover a cough or sneeze. Germs can travel in droplets that come from your airway when you sneeze or cough. Droplets can travel 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters). Anyone who breathes in the droplets or gets them in his or her eyes can become infected with the germs. Use a tissue that covers your mouth or nose. Then throw the tissue away and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm if you do not have a tissue. Teach children how to cover a cough or sneeze properly. Remind them to wash their hands after they cough or sneeze.
  • Teach children how to wash their hands correctly. Put hand soap within easy reach of the sink. Have children use a timer or teach them a song to sing so they know how long to wash their hands.
  • Clean surfaces often. Use a disinfecting wipe, a single-use sponge, or a cloth you can wash and reuse. Use disinfecting cleaners if you do not have wipes. You can create a disinfecting cleaner by mixing 1 part bleach with 10 parts water. Clean kitchen countertops, cooking surfaces, and the fronts and insides of the microwave and refrigerator. Clean the bath tub, toilet, the area around the toilet, the sink, the area around the sink, and all faucets. Also clean computer keyboards, phones, and doorknobs often.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.