Properly Washing Your Hands: Top Tips

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Handwashing is a fundamental practice for maintaining hygiene and preventing the transmission of pathogens. It serves to safeguard both individuals and the wider community. The correct procedure entails wetting hands with clean, running water, applying soap, and rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds to ensure thorough cleaning, including between fingers and under nails. Proper rinsing and drying are also essential.

Common errors to avoid include inadequate handwashing duration, incomplete coverage of hand surfaces, omission of soap, and improper drying. Handwashing should be performed at critical times, such as before eating and after using the restroom. Supplementary measures include using a paper towel to handle faucets and doors in public restrooms, employing hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable, and refraining from touching the face with unwashed hands.

Educating children on proper handwashing techniques and promoting good hand hygiene among family members and colleagues is essential.

Tip #1: Wet Your Hands With Clean, Running Water

The first tip for properly washing your hands is to wet them with clean, running water. This step is crucial as it helps to remove dirt, germs, and any other contaminants from the surface of the skin. Clean, running water is preferred over stagnant water as it ensures a continuous flow, effectively rinsing away any impurities. It is important to note that the water should be at a comfortable temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, to prevent any discomfort during the handwashing process.

Wetting the hands thoroughly is essential as it helps to create a lather when the soap is applied, promoting effective cleansing of the hands. Once the hands are wet, the next step is to apply an adequate amount of soap.

Tip #2: Apply Soap and Lather Well

Applying soap and creating a rich lather is crucial for effective handwashing. This step helps to remove dirt, grease, and germs from the skin. The soap acts as a surfactant, which lowers the surface tension of water and allows it to penetrate the skin better.

A good lather ensures that all areas of the hands are covered and increases the contact time between the soap and the skin. To achieve a proper lather, it is important to rub the hands together vigorously, including the back of the hands, between the fingers, and under the nails. This mechanical action helps to dislodge and remove any pathogens present on the skin.

After lathering, rinsing the hands thoroughly with clean, running water is essential to remove all traces of soap and any remaining dirt or germs.

Tip #3: Rub Your Hands Together for at Least 20 Seconds

To ensure thorough handwashing, it is recommended to rub the hands together for a minimum of 20 seconds. This duration allows for the effective removal of dirt, germs, and other contaminants from the hands.

Rubbing the hands together creates friction, which helps to dislodge and remove microorganisms that may be present on the skin. This action also ensures that the soap or hand sanitizer is distributed evenly across all surfaces of the hands, including between the fingers and under the nails.

By rubbing their hands for at least 20 seconds, individuals can maximize the benefits of handwashing and reduce the risk of spreading infections.

It is important to note that this recommended duration may need to be extended in certain situations, such as when hands are visibly soiled or when dealing with highly infectious agents.

Tip #4: Clean All Surfaces, Including Between Fingers and Under Nails

Rubbing all surfaces of the hands, including between the fingers and under the nails, ensures thorough cleansing and removal of potential contaminants during handwashing. This step is crucial in maintaining proper hand hygiene and preventing the spread of germs and infections. By cleaning all surfaces of the hands, individuals can effectively eliminate any harmful substances that may be present.

In addition to the fingertips and palms, the spaces between the fingers and the areas beneath the nails should also be given attention. These areas are often overlooked but can harbor bacteria and other pathogens. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate these specific handwashing techniques to ensure comprehensive cleaning and minimize the risk of contamination.

Tip #5: Rinse Thoroughly and Dry With a Clean Towel or Air Dry

Thoroughly rinsing hands and drying them with a clean towel or allowing them to air dry after handwashing is an important step in the hand hygiene process. This step helps to remove any remaining soap, dirt, and germs from the hands.

Rinsing hands under clean, running water ensures that any residual contaminants are effectively washed away. It is crucial to pay attention to all hand surfaces, including between fingers and under nails, during the rinsing process.

After rinsing, drying hands with a clean towel helps to further remove any moisture and potential pathogens that may still be present. Alternatively, allowing hands to air dry is also an acceptable method, as long as the environment is clean and free from contamination.

Ensuring that hands are thoroughly rinsed and dried contributes to overall hand hygiene and helps to prevent the spread of germs and infections.

Tip #6: Avoid Common Handwashing Mistakes

One of the important steps in maintaining proper hand hygiene is to avoid common handwashing mistakes. These mistakes can undermine the effectiveness of handwashing and increase the risk of spreading germs and viruses. To ensure optimal handwashing, it is important to be aware of and avoid the following common mistakes:

  • Not washing hands for long enough
  • Neglecting to clean all hand surfaces
  • Skipping the use of soap
  • Not drying hands properly
  • Failing to wash hands at critical times (before eating, after using the restroom, etc.)

By avoiding these mistakes, individuals can enhance the efficacy of handwashing and contribute to the prevention of illnesses and infections.

It is crucial to educate oneself and others about proper handwashing techniques to promote overall health and hygiene.

Tip #7: Practice Hand Hygiene in Specific Situations

To maintain hand hygiene in specific situations, it is important to follow recommended practices such as using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door in public restrooms. This practice helps to minimize the risk of recontamination after handwashing.

Additionally, when soap and water are not readily available, it is advisable to use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. This can effectively kill germs and reduce the transmission of pathogens.

It is also crucial to avoid touching the face with unwashed hands, as the mucous membranes provide an entry point for germs.

Teaching children proper handwashing techniques from an early age is essential in promoting lifelong hand hygiene habits.

Furthermore, it is beneficial to encourage colleagues and family members to practice good hand hygiene, as this collective effort helps in preventing the spread of infections and maintaining a healthy environment.

Tip #8: Encourage Others to Practice Good Hand Hygiene

Encouraging others to practice good hand hygiene is an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy environment. By promoting proper handwashing techniques among colleagues and family members, the spread of germs and viruses can be significantly reduced. To effectively encourage others, consider the following tips:

  • Lead by example: Demonstrate proper handwashing techniques consistently.
  • Share knowledge: Educate others about the importance of hand hygiene and its role in preventing illnesses and infections.
  • Provide resources: Make hand sanitizers, soap, and clean towels readily available in shared spaces.
  • Communicate reminders: Use posters, signs, or verbal reminders to prompt individuals to wash their hands at critical times.
  • Foster a culture of hygiene: Create an environment where good hand hygiene is valued and encouraged.


In conclusion, proper handwashing is a crucial aspect of maintaining good hygiene and preventing the spread of germs and viruses. Following the correct technique, including wetting hands with clean water, using soap, and rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds, ensures all surfaces are cleaned.

Thorough rinsing and proper drying are also important steps. Avoiding common handwashing mistakes and practicing hand hygiene in specific situations, such as before eating and after using the restroom, are essential.

Encouraging others to practice good hand hygiene is equally important in promoting overall health and well-being.