The power to fight germs and protect your health rests in your (clean) hands. 

Keeping your hands clean by washing them regularly can help fend off germs and send them down the drain. It’s a no-brainer, easy task, right? Actually, yes, it is, and washing your hands is good for your health.

father and daughter washing hands

Dirty hands help spread nasty germs and viruses. Here are some ways these bugs can spread to you and others. If you:

  • Touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Prepare or eat food with unwashed hands
  • Touch germy surfaces or objects
  • Blow your nose, cough or sneeze into your hands and then touch other people’s hands, surfaces or common objects

Keeping your hands clean by washing them regularly can help fend off germs and send them down the drain. It’s a no-brainer, easy task, right? Actually, yes, it is, and washing your hands is good for your health.

Our own Infection Preventionist, Jeanie McCulley is passionate about hand hygiene and wants all of us to embrace handwashing as the powerful protection tool that it is. “Hand hygiene is critical to protect your health,” McCulley explains. “It is really the way to go to help keep yourself and others healthy, especially during COVID-19.”

So, what is the proper way to wash your hands? McCulley offers these tips:

  • Wash your hands for 20-30 seconds. Use a timer or sing the song, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” twice as you wash your hands.
  • Wet your hands and soap thoroughly up to, and including, your wrists.
  • Clean under your fingernails and gently scrub the cuticles
  • Don’t neglect the area between your thumb and index finger 
  • Clean between your fingers
  • Rinse completely with clean running water 
  • Dry your hands with a clean cloth or paper towel
    • Pro tip: When washing your hands in public, use a couple of extra paper towels to turn off the faucet and also open the restroom door.
    • Avoid the blowers in some restrooms and use toilet paper to pat your hands dry if paper towels are not available. (Air dryers are hotbeds of slimy mold.)

If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You can check the product label to make sure. Hand sanitizer is good, but it doesn’t kill all types of germs. Also, if your hands are really dirty (visibly soiled) or greasy, you need to use soap and water to get them completely clean.

If you need to use hand sanitizer, use it the proper way. Here’s how.

  • Apply to the palm of one hand (read the label to find out how much)
  • Rub your hands together as you would with soap and water
  • Rub the sanitizer all over your fingers and hands until completely dry

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be harmful if swallowed. Keep out of the reach of children. 

In addition to practicing good hand hygiene, remember to maintain a distance of at least six feet between yourself and others, and wear a face mask to cover your nose and mouth in public. WEARING IS CARING!

Visit cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html to read more hand washing tips and get additional information.