6 Tips to Wash Your Hands the ‘Right’ Way

March 6, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Jerry Zuckerman, M.D. contributes to topics such as Infection Control.

  1. Use warm or cold water

The most important part to remember is that you use clean, running water to wash your hands. There is not clear evidence to support that the temperature of the water matters when it comes to killing germs. Although using hot water may be beneficial, it would have to be much hotter than comfortable to make a difference.

  1. Use regular soap, not antibacterial soap

The Food and Drug Administration said in 2016 that 19 ingredients in common “antibacterial” soaps, including triclosan, were no more effective than regular soap and water and thus these products are no longer able to be marketed to the general public. This rule does not affect hand sanitizers, wipes, or antibacterial products used in health care settings.

  1. Wash your hands often! Key times include:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • 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 handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
  1. Scrub for at least 20 seconds

Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

  1. Dry hands well with an air dryer or clean paper towel

Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands; therefore, hands should be dried well after washing.

  1. No sink? Use hand sanitizer

If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. To use it effectively, rub the gel all over the surface of your hands and let air dry (usually takes about 20 seconds).

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.