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How to Wash Your Hands Properly

Reviewed by
Date published
05/05/2021
Date last updated
26/04/2021
Length of read
3 Minutes

Hand washing has always been important in preventing the spread of germs and viruses, but since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, it has become a primary concern for everyone around the world.

Why It’s Important To Wash Your Hands Thoroughly

Hand washing might seem like a basic task, but if done incorrectly, it will prove ineffective. Even if your hands look like they’re clean, they can still carry multiple germs so cleaning them regularly, and above all properly, is critical.

Be conscious of what you’re touching throughout the day, from railings and stair rails to door handles, light switches and touch screens in public spaces. We are in contact with things more than we realise, which means we are at risk of picking up germs and bacteria that could be damaging to our health.

For this reason, it’s vital that you wash your hands regularly to remove these germs throughout the day.

When Should You Wash Your Hands?

If public transport forms a big part of your day, it’s important to wash your hands before you get to work and then again after you’ve been travelling. You should also wash your hands again when you get home, before you eat or drink anything, and before and after handling ingredients like raw meat or vegetables.

This should accompany common-sense hygiene practices, such as after using the toilet, when you’ve coughed or sneezed, or before and after treating a wound. If you’re not able to wash your hands immediately, using hand sanitiser is a good compromise until you’re able to get to a bathroom to wash them properly.

How To Wash Your Hands

The first step to cleaning your hands thoroughly is to remove any rings or jewellery so that you can clean them properly.

You need to physically remove bacteria by making your hands slippery so that the germs can be rinsed off. Soap works well for this, and it’s just as effective for the likes of coronavirus as it is for other viruses and illnesses. The reason for this is that viruses are covered in a layer of fat - soap helps to break this down so that the virus is less damaging to your health.

You should ideally wash your hands for 20 seconds at least. It can help to put a 20-second timer on so you can see just how long you need to be washing your hands for, then follow these steps:

  1. Wet your hands with warm running water
  2. Apply a small amount of soap to your hands
  3. Rub your hands together vigorously, making sure that soap and water is applied to all surfaces of your hands for up to one minute (at least for 20 seconds). This should include your palms, the backs of your hands, between your fingers, your fingertips and nails, and your wrists
  4. Rinse your hands with warm running water
  5. Dry your hands completely using a hand dryer or a disposable paper towel
  6. Turn off the tap using a paper towel or your elbow to avoid re-contaminating your hands with germs from the tap

If you don’t have soap to wash your hands, but you do have access to water, you should use a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol in it. This will remove the majority of germs until you can wash your hands properly with soap.

If you have water but no sanitiser either, you should rub your hands together under the water and dry them with a clean towel or air dry them. This will rinse some of the germs off, but it is not as effective as using soap and water together.