How To Properly Wash Your Hands

By:    Published: February 3, 2012

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You’ve properly heard time and time again, from parents, doctors, school teachers, the importance of washing your hands as much as possible. Maybe you understand the importance of proper hand-sanitizing when preparing, cooking, eating or just handling food, in general. But can it really be that important? You might be surprised how this simple hygienic task can be so important to your overall health. Read on to learn how to properly wash your hands.

Why Wash Your Hands?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proper hand washing is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs and diseases to those around you. And frequent hand washing and sanitizing is not limited to kids who are constantly getting dirt when playing outside; it’s for everyone. You’d be surprised at the possible places you can find germs, bacteria and other disgusting things, like fecal matter, that you touch on a regular basis. Here is another interesting little piece of information from the CDC: frequent and proper hand washing can potentially save more lives than any single vaccine or type of medical intervention.

How To Properly Wash Your Hands

Now that you know the importance of washing your hands, here are the proper steps to do it:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water.
  2. Lather up your hands with liquid, bar or powdered soap.
  3. Scrub the lather vigorously around your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t want to actually count 20 seconds, try singing the “Happy Birthday” song in your head, two times in a row. That should be a sufficient amount of time.
  4. Make sure you scrub the lather on the back of your hands, between your fingers, under fingernails and around your wrists.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer.
  6. Try to use a towel to turn off the faucet.

When Should You Wash Your Hands?

You don’t necessarily have to go to such extremes where you find yourself washing your hands every 30 minutes. However, there are specific times when you should take the time to properly wash your hands:

  • Whenever you are handling or preparing food. That includes, before, during and after preparation. You obviously don’t want to handle cooked food after handling raw food without a proper hand wash in between.
  • Before you eat food. That includes a quick snack or after getting your food from a drive-thru window.
  • Before and after being around someone who is sick.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After changing a baby’s diaper.
  • After helping a child who has just used the bathroom.
  • After touching anything potentially dirty. That not includes the toilet and garbage, but also other areas that are commonly touched and might not be cleaned. Just refer to this list of common places where you can catch the flu.
  • After handling animal waste.
  • After you cough, sneeze or blow your nose.

What If You Can’t Get To A Sink?

If you’re having trouble locating a sink, fear not. Carrying a water bottle and soap is not necessary. Just make sure you have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy. Many public places, like the mall, are starting to feature public hand sanitizer dispensers for the convenience of their guests. A good hand sanitizer should contain at least 60 percent alcohol. However, keep in mind that hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and should not be used as a substitute for a proper hand washing when a sink and soap are nearby. If your hands are visibly filthy, it’s best to look for a place to wash them instead of resorting to a hand sanitizer.

Here is how to properly use a hand sanitizer:

  • Apply enough sanitizer on one palm to ensure you can properly cover both hands when rubbed together.
  • Rub the hand sanitizer between your hands.
  • Make sure you get the hand sanitizer all around your hands, including the finger tips and back of your hands.
  • Continue to rub until your hands and fingers are completely dry.

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