Wash Your Hands
Good handwashing practices are essential for protecting yourself and other people from the germs, chemicals, and dirt that can accumulate on your hands throughout the day. There are some situations where handwashing is necessary, but you may be able to use hand sanitizer if your hands are not visibly dirty. Either way, it is important to practice the proper technique to get your hands as clean as possible.
Method 1 of 2: Washing Your Hands with Soap and Water
1. Wash your hands when they are dirty
Wash your hands when they are dirty. You can wash your hands any time you think they might be dirty, but there are certain situations where washing your hands is essential. Some situations where you should definitely wash your hands include:
Before and after caring for a wound.
Before and after preparing or eating food.
Before and after caring for someone who is sick.
After using the bathroom.
After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
After taking out the trash or picking up garbage.
After changing a diaper.
After petting or handling an animal and any animal products or waste.
Before inserting or removing contact lenses.
2. Make sure to be washing for at least 20-30 seconds
Make sure to be washing for at least 20-30 seconds. If you want, you can wash even longer. 20-30 seconds is the rule of thumb so that you’ll wash long enough to get rid of the germs.
3. Get your hands wet with warm or cold water
Get your hands wet with warm or cold water. Turn on your faucet and hold your hands underneath the stream of water to wet them. Make sure to get your palms and the backs of your hands completely wet so the soap spreads more evenly.
Opt to wet your hands underneath running water to ensure that it’s clean. Standing water may contain germs or bacteria.
There’s no need to keep the tap running, you just need to wet your hands. Turning off the tap will save water!
4. Apply enough hand soap to cover your hands
Apply enough hand soap to cover your hands. Dispense a coin-sized amount of hand soap onto the palm of one of your hands. Then begin rubbing your hands together to lather the soap until it forms suds.
You can use liquid hand soap, a soap bar, or powdered soap. The soap does not have to be antibacterial.
5. Interlace your fingers to clean in between them
Interlace your fingers to clean in between them. Put one hand on top of the other so both of your palms face down. Put the fingers from your top hand in between the ones on your bottom hand. Move your hands up and down along the lengths of your fingers to scrub them. Then interlace your fingers with your palms together and repeat the process.
Wash your hands like this for about 3–5 seconds each.
6. Hold onto your thumb and rotate your other hand around it
Hold onto your thumb and rotate your other hand around it. Stick out your left thumb and wrap your right hand around it. Turn your right hand up and down to scrub your thumb and spread the soap down to where it connects to your hand. After about 2–3 seconds, switch hands to clean your other thumb.
Hold onto your thumb as tight as you comfortably can to work the soap deeper into your skin.
7. Rub your palms with the tips of your fingers
Rub your palms with the tips of your fingers. Keep your left hand open so your palm faces up. Clench the fingers on your right hand and use your fingertips to scrub your left palm. Continue working the soap into your palm for 3–4 seconds before cleaning your right hand the same way.
This helps the soap get underneath your nails so they aren’t as dirty.
8. Rinse your hands thoroughly
Rinse your hands thoroughly. After you finish lathering and scrubbing your hands, place your hands under the running water again and allow the water to run over them. Remove all the soap from your hands until you don’t see any more suds.
9. Dry your hands with a clean towel
Dry your hands with a clean towel. Get a clean, dry towel and rub your hands with it. If you can, use a disposable towel so you’re less likely to spread germs. Make sure you clean off as much water as you can until your hands are completely dry.
If you need to use an air-drying unit, make sure to move your hands around and rub them together under the warm air to get them completely dry.
10. Use a towel to turn off the faucet
Use a towel to turn off the faucet. If the water does not automatically shut off, then hold onto the faucet with your towel to turn it off. That way, you don’t re-contaminate your hands right away. Throw away the towel if it’s disposable or hang it to dry.
You can also use your elbow to turn off the faucet if a towel is not available.
If you’re using reusable hand towels, wash them at least every 2 or 3 days so germs don’t build up.
Method 2 of 2: Using Hand Sanitizer
1. Decide if hand sanitizer is appropriate
Decide if hand sanitizer is appropriate. There are some situations where you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead of using soap and water to wash your hands. However, you may want to take a moment to evaluate the situation. Some things you should consider include:
Whether or not your hands are visibly dirty. If you can see the dirt or grease on your hands, then use soap and water to clean them.
What you have on your hands. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer will not eliminate all of the germs on your hands and it will not remove certain substances, such as pesticides and heavy metals. In these situations, opt for soap and water.
The availability of water. If you don’t have running water, then use alcohol-based hand sanitizer since it’s better than leaving your hands dirty. However, if you have access to soap and running water, wash your hands instead.
2. Apply a coin-sized amount of hand sanitizer to one hand
Apply a coin-sized amount of hand sanitizer to one hand. Opt for a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol so it’s more effective at killing harmful bacteria. Push down on the pump to squirt a coin-sized amount of the sanitizer directly into your palm.
You can also use alcohol cleaning wipes if you have them.
3. Rub your hands together until the sanitizer evaporates
Rub your hands together until the sanitizer evaporates. Rub your hands together for about 20 seconds, and move the hand sanitizer around them as if you are washing your hands. Interlace your fingers to clean between them and rub your palms with your fingertips to get underneath your nails. Keep moving your hands around until they feel dry.