University of Florida

Keep It Clean: Washing Your Hands

While washing your hands seems like an easy, routine task, many people fail do it correctly or even at all. In fact, only 5% of people wash their hands enough to kill germs after using the restroom, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health.

Since hand washing is one of the best ways to stop the spread of infections and illness, use the following tips to make sure your hands stay sanitary.     

Wash Your Hands Before...

  • Preparing and eating foods
  • Taking care of someone who is sick
  • Treating a cut or wound
  • Drinking
  • Touching your mouth or face

Wash Your Hands After...

  • Using the restroom
  • Coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Handling garbage or trash
  • Taking care of someone who is sick
  • Treating a cut or wound
  • Touching and preparing foods, especially meats
  • Working, gardening, or playing outside
  • Changing baby diapers
  • Petting an animal, or touching animal food or waste

How to Wash Your Hands

  1. Wet hands with warm or cold running water, turn off the faucet, and add soap—since still water could be unsanitary from earlier use, try to always use running water. (Note, if soap and water aren’t available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean hands.)
  2. Rub hands together to create a soapy lather, scrubbing between fingers, the back of hands, and under finger nails and rings—do this for 20 seconds or while singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  3. Rinse hands with running water.
  4. Dry hands with a paper towel—if you want to take extra precaution, use the paper towel to turn off the tap and touch the doorknob.

Whether it’s from petting a dog, preparing food, or coughing, a typical person’s hand can carry 10,000 to 10 million bacteria at a time. Get rid of the germs and prevent spreading colds and infections by washing your hands correctly.

Excerpted and adapted from:

A. Simonne, Hand Hygiene and Hand Sanitizers” (FCS8788), UF/IFAS Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department (Accessed 07/2014). 

Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Accessed 07/2014).

Wash Your Hands,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Accessed 07/2014).

Washing hands
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