Dos and Don’ts of Handwashing

Learn how to fight germs by washing your hands correctly.


Believe it or not, there are right and wrong ways to wash your hands. Use these tips to wash your hands well and encourage your family to do the same. Handwashing saves lives. December 2-8 is National Handwashing Awareness Week. Do your part every day.

Do use soap.
Regular soap is all you need to get your hands clean, as long as you scrub for the proper amount of time and you wash thoroughly. You don’t need to use hospital grade antibacterial soap.

Don’t worry about water temperature.
Hot water may feel good on a cold day, but it isn’t necessary to kill germs. The important part is working up lots of suds and washing all the surfaces of your hands thoroughly, including under the nails. Cold water will work just fine.

Do wash for at least 20 seconds.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Use this time to scrub your palms, the top of your hands, your fingers, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Don’t dry with a used towel.
When you’re at home or at a friend's house, don’t dry your hands on a towel that’s been hanging in the bathroom for a while. You should use a fresh towel, air dry or use paper towels. This helps stop the spread of germs.

Do wash frequently.
Wondering when you should wash your hands? The answer is frequently. You should wash:

  • before you eat
  • after touching your eyes or mouth
  • after changing a diaper or using the restroom
  • after coming in contact with garbage
  • after touching pets
  • any time you blow your nose, sneeze or cough

When in doubt, wash your hands. That way, you can never be wrong about preventing the spread of germs.

Looking for more information on your family's health and how to prevent illness? Our online health library is a great resource. You can also call our free Consult-a-Nurse® service at 1-888-741-5120 to ask any questions or request a physician referral.

Related Post: 
Have a Healthy Holiday Season
A Parent's Guide to Immunizations

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