Proper handwashing technique is vitally important to personal wellness and preventing the spread of disease. Studies have shown that a simple, sustained scrubbing technique can effectively clean dirt and grease from your hands. It will also kill most bacteria and harmful microorganisms that live on your skin and transfer to other places (including other parts of your own body) via touch. Here’s how to wash your hands properly.
When To Wash Your Hands
There are many times when the potential to spread germs through touch contact exists, and it is at these times that washing your hands is most important. Some of these include:
- Food preparation time (before, during and after)
- Before eating
- Before and after caring for someone else who is sick
- Before and after treating a wound
- After using the bathroom
- After cleaning up a child who has just used the bathroom or after changing their diaper
- After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
- After touching animals, animal products and waste
- After handling pet food
- After touching garbage
In addition to washing your hands, during these occasions it’s also a good idea to avoid touching your face or other people. Residual germs can easily migrate to other places through touch. If you must touch something or someone when your hands are dirty, try to do it with a barrier of some sort, such as gloves, a cloth or a sleeve.
How To Properly Wash Your Hands
Oftentimes, handwashing is a hasty job. Hand scrubbing usually only lasts a couple seconds. Then the soap is immediately washed off before having a chance to do its job. Here are some steps to take to see this process through (it takes less than a minute).
- Wet your hands with clean water (cold or warm) and apply soap.
- Lather, or scrub, the soap on your hands. Lathering creates friction and resistance that lifts dirt, grease, dead skin cells and germs off your hands. Scrub your palms, the backs of your hands, the areas between your fingers and under your fingernails.
- Scrub for at least 20 seconds. You can time this by humming the “Happy Birthday” song or singing your ABC’s twice.
- Rinse your hands well to get all scrubbed up germs, dirt and grease off of them.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry them.
For a higher level of effectiveness, use warm water to rinse, as the heat will help kill any germs that are left over. Cold water is not as effective, and hot water can dry out your skin and create germ-attracting cracks in your skin.
Always use soap—preferably antibacterial soap—because water will wash dead skin cells and surface dirt off your hands, but it won’t kill germs all by itself. Antibacterial soap will get into the hard-to-reach or often-missed places and both kill and wash off microbes.
When To Use Hand Sanitizer
If soap and water are unavailable, using hand sanitizer is also a good option. Make sure that any hand sanitizer that you use contains at least 60 percent alcohol, which you can find information about on the label.
When using hand sanitizer, note that it may not work as effectively as soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. It also may not get rid of residual chemicals that may be on your hands. Furthermore, no hand sanitizer kills all of the germs on your hands. Because of this, it’s always best to wash your hands with soap and water if available.
To properly apply hand sanitizer:
- Dispense the amount recommended by the bottle label onto your palm.
- Rub your hands together, scrubbing over your palms, the backs of your hands and between your fingers.
- Rub until the hand sanitizer has evaporated and your hands are dry (which should take about 20 seconds).
Why Wash Your Hands?
Washing your hands is proven to kill germs and prevent them from spreading to others. Statistics show that it prevents disease, such as stomach problems, the common cold and diarrhea. If you are sick, it’s important for you to wash your hands whenever you can, as this will help prevent the spreading of disease to others around you. Handwashing is also important for caregivers (including and especially medical staff), customer service workers and those who have weak or compromised immune systems due to age and previous health conditions. Also, remember to teach your children proper handwashing technique, as they generally have weaker immune systems and are often a vehicle for transmitting disease. Finally, disinfecting is not limited to your hands. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects can also help prevent the spread of disease.
If you are severely sick, the best thing you can do is stay at home, rest and avoid touching other people while contagious. If your sickness worsens, please contact us at Community Access Network or walk into our office for treatment today.