Proper Hand-Washing for Clean Hands

Hand Hygiene and How to Wash Your Hands

June 2, 2016

Hand-washing is an essential part of staying healthy, so learn how to wash your hands correctly! Having good hand hygiene through a proper hand-washing technique can be a great skill that keeps you from getting sick.

You’ve probably heard this more than once: “Wash your hands—and use lots of soap and hot water!”

As it turns out, washing your hands properly is one very simple way to keep yourself healthy. Here are tips to do it right, as recommended by Dr. Lamont Sweet, Deputy Chief Health Officer for the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.

Hand Washing Procedure: 

  • To wash your hands, you need lots of regular soap and lots of water.
  • The temperature of the water is not important, despite common belief. It has no effect on a good scrub’s germ-fighting abilities.
  • How long should you wash your hands for? Allow for two minutes (or, at the very least, 20 seconds of rigorous scrub time after lathering, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Put effort into scrubbing not only palms and fingers, but also the backs of hands and the skin between the fingers where germs can continue to reside.

When You Should Wash Your Hands:

  • Before and after your hands are near your face.
  • Before eating and cooking.
  • After using the bathroom, blowing your nose, and sneezing into a hand.
  • After changing diapers.
  • After handling any kind of meat or garbage.
  • After touching animals or cleaning up after them.

And here’s an economic solution: Use boiled potatoes to cleanse hands. They work as well as common soap and keep the skin soft and healthy. You can also try making your own homemade soap to avoid the chemicals in some store-bought brands.

Want more great tips to stay germ-free? Try these instructions on bathroom cleaning and kitchen cleaning, and make sure all that hard work you put in is really keeping your home healthy.

If you have other tips or ideas, please share! Just submit your comments in the box below.


This article was originally published in 2009 and is regularly updated.

Reader Comments

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I still believe that a lot of

I still believe that a lot of this is overkill. If I washed my hands before and after touching my face and after touching animals I would never have a chance to leave my bathroom. I have 5 dogs and 4 cats. The dogs are in my lap whenever I sit down, I pet them while I am doing other things. I don't think I wash my hands even once a day most days. That said, if I come down with a cold or other illness more than once or twice a year it would be very unusual. I think people have become so obsessed with germs that they have made themselves susceptible to any little bug that comes along. I don't use hand sanitizer, I don't sanitize countertops or stovetops and I often leave leftovers out overnight and reheat the next day before refrigerating them and I have never had salmonella or other issues.

no one ever thinks about the

no one ever thinks about the handles on the toilet flushers and stall doors. Areas that can go without being disinfected for months... Years. Personally I believe staying away from all public restroom surfaces. ,go to the bathroom. Your not going to catch anything from yourself. Just go, grab paper towel, on the way in, use it to touch every surface. Toss it after you have left the room. Actually, wear rubber gloves and a mask everywhere you go. Don't take public transportation. Who knows when anyone has disinfected the surfaces on the bus. In the grocery store, on the fuel pump at the gas station. At least toilets and sinks get disinfected if a janitor is good. They are probably the only surfaces you don't have to worry about.

When I was doing my assistent

When I was doing my assistent in nursing course, we were taught to sing happy birthday song to ourselves to gauge the length of time to wash our hands for.

It's very important tips for

It's very important tips for all of us and very clean and disinfect our hands for most of the day
Wash Carpets
Wash boards

I have never heard of using a

I have never heard of using a boiled potato as soap and cannot find anything else like that on the internet. Was that a joke?

This is one of many old-time

The Editors's picture

This is one of many old-time (and we admit, sometimes wacky) remedies found in our archives. The Almanac began in 1792, so a lot of the old tips seem strange today.

Germs don't make you sick.

Germs don't make you sick. They are everywhere all the time. When your immune system is compromised, germs can get the upper hand inside. You can wash your hands till the cows come home and it won't do any good. You need to maintain a strong immune system.

Here's my additional

Here's my additional suggestion: don't forget your wrists. Wash farther up than just your hands, so as to clean the wrist areas, too. Those areas can easily harbor germs from your blouse or shirt sleeves, or from bracelets.

After turning the faucet off

After turning the faucet off with the paper towel, use it to open the restroom door, especially if it has a doorknob or handle that must be pulled inward. lots of germs there left behind from no-wash bathroom visitors...

Before you wash your hands in

Before you wash your hands in a restroom with a manually advanced paper towel dispenser, get the amount of paper you want first. That way you don't touch any other thing than clean paper after you have washed your hands, that you can use to turn off the faucet.

A couple more facts just as

A couple more facts just as important as water, soap and scrubbing time: The faucet is contaminated when it is turned on with dirty hands. When finished washing hands, do not touch the faucet directly to turn it off or your hands will be dirty again. After you've dried your hands, use the towel to turn off the water and put the towel in the laundry, or rubbish if it is disposable.