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Hand-washing is an easy way to help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. Learn more about when to wash your hands, and how to most effectively do so.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proper and effective hand hygiene is crucial to avoid infectious diseases and their transmission. 

Frequent hand washing is the cornerstone of maintaining hand hygiene, and by frequently washing your hands, you can prevent various harmful diseases such as Coronavirus (Covid-19), the common cold, flu, etc. 

In this article, we’ll look at the correct steps regarding how to wash your hands to ensure they’re free of germs that can cause serious infections.

8 steps to wash your hands the right way 

Contaminated hands are one of the primary reasons for spreading germs, bacteria, and diseases from one person to another and within our community, including homes, workplaces, schools, childcare facilities, etc. 

You can guarantee a healthy and hygienic society by knowing and adopting the following hand washing steps

  1. First, wet your hands with clean and running water. 
  2. Then, apply enough antibacterial soap or antibacterial liquid hand wash to cover all surfaces of your hands and wrists. 
  3. Lather and rub your hands together briskly and thoroughly. 
  4. Scrub your palm, fingertips, fingernails, and wrists together.
  5. Continue this process for at least 20 seconds.
  6. Finally, rub the back of each hand.
  7. Rinse with clean and running water.
  8. Dry your hands and wrists with a clean towel, or let them air dry.

When should you wash your hands?

Your hands come in contact with many surfaces throughout the day from where bacteria and viruses can latch onto them.

While it is a good practice to wash your hands frequently, ensure that you wash them, especially at the following key moments:  

  • After using the toilet or changing a nappy. 
  • After returning from outside, especially from a public place.
  • Before and after handling raw foods like meat and eggs. 
  • Before and after consuming food items. 
  • After blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing.
  • Before and after attending to a sick individual.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.
  • After touching animals, including pets, their food, and after cleaning their cages.

What should you do if soap and water aren't available?

While soap and water is the best way to remove bacteria and viruses from the hands, these two things will not always be readily available. 

At such times, using an antibacterial hand sanitizer that kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria is an ideal alternative. 

To use a hand sanitizer, you should: 

  1. First, apply the gel product to the palm of one hand.
  2. Next, rub your hands together and cover all surfaces, including fingertips, fingernails, and wrists. 
  3. Repeat the process until your hands are dry. 

A 2017 study also found that hand sanitizer formulations with ethanol, isopropanol, or both effectively kill viral pathogens like Ebola, MRSA, HIV, Hepatitis B, and C. 


How often should you wash your hands?

According to medical experts, washing your hands six to ten times daily can keep viruses and bacteria at bay. 

What are the 5 steps to effective hand washing?

The 5 steps for effective hand washing include

  1. First, wet your hands with clean and running water.
  2. Next, apply soap or liquid hand wash and create a lather.
  3. Next, scrub all the surfaces of your hands. 
  4. Next, rinse your hands with clean and running water.
  5. Finally, dry your hands with tissue paper or a towel.

What is the difference between hand hygiene and hand washing?

Hand hygiene is a general term for hand washing, antiseptic hand washing, hand rubbing, and surgical hand antisepsis. On the other hand, hand washing is an effective infection control measure under hand hygiene. 

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