How to Properly Wash Your Hands, According to Health Experts

How to Properly Wash Your Hands, According to Health Experts

The Importance of Handwashing

Washing our hands properly and frequently is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs and stay healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, handwashing decreases infectious diarrhea cases by 31% and respiratory infections by 21%. It also helps prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance in healthcare facilities.

When to Wash Your Hands

The CDC recommends washing hands in the following situations:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching garbage
  • After touching an animal, animal food or treats
  • After handling pet food or pet treats

How to Properly Wash Your Hands

According to the CDC, follow these five steps every time you wash your hands:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water. Turn off the tap and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Cover all surfaces of your hands and fingers.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Tips for Effective Handwashing

  • Use warm, not hot or cold, water
  • Liquid soap is best
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds or longer
  • Rinse all soap off hands
  • Pat hands dry instead of rubbing
  • Use a clean towel or disposable towel

Hand Sanitizer Use

Hand sanitizers can be used when soap and water are not available. Apply enough product to cover all hand surfaces and rub hands together until dry. Note that hand sanitizers may not kill all types of germs and do not remove harmful chemicals.


Can warm water kill germs better than cold water?

No, the temperature of the water does not affect how well germs are killed. What matters most is using soap and scrubbing hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds.

Does soap kill germs?

Soap does not kill germs directly. However, washing hands with soap helps lift dirt, grease, and germs from the skin so they can be rinsed off. Removing germs helps prevent the spread of infection.

Is antibacterial soap better than regular soap?

For handwashing, regular soap is just as effective as antibacterial soap. Using regular soap and scrubbing hands for 20 seconds efficiently removes germs.

How does hand sanitizer work?

Hand sanitizers contain alcohol, which can kill germs on hands when rubbed thoroughly over hands until dry. However, sanitizers cannot remove all types of germs and may not work well if hands are visibly dirty.

Can I just rinse my hands with water?

No, rinsing hands with only water will not effectively remove germs. It is crucial to use soap and scrub hands together for at least 20 seconds before rinsing to wash away germs.