How to Wash Your Hands

Two Methods:Washing Your Hands with Soap and WaterUsing Hand Sanitizer

Good hand washing 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 hand washing 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
Washing Your Hands with Soap and Water

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    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:[1]
    • Caring for a wound.
    • Before and after eating or preparing food.
    • Caring for someone who is sick.
    • Changing a diaper or helping a child use the restroom.
    • After petting an animal, handling an animal, or handling an animal’s waste.
    • After taking out the trash or picking up garbage.
    • After coughing or sneezing into your hands or blowing your nose.
    • Before inserting or removing contact lenses.[2]
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    Get your hands wet. Turn the water faucet on and hold your hands under warm or cold running water to wet them.[3] Allow your hands to get wet all over.
    • Either cold or warm water is fine. The water does not have to be hot.
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    Apply some soap. Dispense a small amount of hand soap onto the palm of one of your hands and then begin rubbing your hands together to distribute the soap. Work the soap into a lather and use the soap to scrub both sides of your hands, in between your fingers, around and under your fingernails, and around your wrists.
    • You can use a liquid hand soap, a soap bar, or powdered soap. The soap does not have to be antibacterial.[4]
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    Keep washing your hands for 20 seconds or more. Try to keep track of how long you are washing your hands to ensure that you are washing them for the right amount of time.
    • 20 seconds is just about the time it takes to sing or hum "Happy Birthday" twice, so you may want to sing or hum this tune out loud or in your head to help time yourself.[5]
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    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. Rinse away all of the soap from your hands.[6]
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    Dry your hands with a clean towel. After you have rinsed away all of the soap, get a clean dry towel to dry your hands or use an air drying unit to dry them.[7] Dry your hands completely.
    • If you 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
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    Use a towel to turn off the faucet. If the water does not automatically shut off, then you may want to use a towel to turn off the faucet. Get a clean dry towel and place it over the faucet before turning off the faucet.
    • You can also use your elbow to turn off the faucet if a towel is not available.[8]

Method 2
Using Hand Sanitizer

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    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:[9]
    • Whether or not your hands are visibly dirty. If you can see the dirt or grease on your hands, then it is best to use soap and water to clean them.
    • What you got 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, soap and water work best.
    • The availability of water. If no running water is available to wash your hands, then alcohol-based hand sanitizer is better than nothing. However, if you have access to soap and running water, then washing your hands this way is best.
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    Apply a dollop of hand sanitizer to one hand. To use hand sanitizer to cleanse your hands, apply a dollop of hand sanitizer to one of the palms of your hands. Get about a quarter sized amount so that there will be enough to cover your entire hands.[10]
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    Rub your hands together until the sanitizer evaporates. Rub your hands together and move the hand sanitizer around them as if you are washing your hands.[11] Cover both sides of your hands, between your fingers, and around your wrists.
    • This should take about 20 seconds to do and the alcohol-based sanitizer will have dried on your hands by the time you are done.

Article Info

Categories: Personal Hygiene