Prevea Health

Handwashing techniques to keep your family healthy


Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.

Washing your hands is easy, and it's one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. We all know that germs can be scary. Oftentimes, the best way to defend ourselves against them is soap and clean, running water. In order to really get our hands clean, it’s important to know the proper handwashing technique and when we need to wash them.

To wash your hands:
  • Wet your hands with warm running water, then apply soap. If you apply soap before you wet your hands, it will just wash of as soon as you put them under the water.
  • Once the soap is on your hands, lather the soap on the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. If you are wearing a ring, make sure to either remove or scrub underneath it.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you’re unsure about your time, hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  • When you’re done scrubbing, rinse your hands until all soap is gone.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

When should you wash your hands?
You can help yourself and others stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when germs are likely to get on your hands and can easily spread to others:
  • Beforeduring 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 who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

What should you do if you don't have soap and clean, running water?
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. You can tell if the sanitizer contains at least 60 percentalcohol by looking at the product label. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do NOT get rid of all types of germs.

Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Furthermore, hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals from hands. Be cautious when using hand sanitizers around children; swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning if a person swallows more than a couple mouthfuls.

How do you use hand sanitizers?
  • Apply the gel to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the gel over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

For more information on handwashing, please visit CDC's Handwashing website. You can also call 1-800-CDC-INFO or contact CDC-INFO for answers to specific questions.