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How to Wash Your Hands in 5 Steps: Your First Line of Defense 

How to Wash Your Hands in 5 Steps: Your First Line of Defense 

Germs are everywhere. They lurk on high-touch surfaces, linger in the air, and hide under objects. While inevitable to avoid picking up germs, proper handwashing is an easy tool to help keep you and those around you healthy. 

Whether it’s a routine activity or an essential step during a global pandemic, handwashing is the first line of defense against the spread of germs. Did you know that handwashing with soap reduces bacteria on hands by 92%? It also reduces the risk of respiratory illnesses, like the common cold, by up to 21%. 

The key to washing your hands is to follow the right steps. If someone misses a step or doesn’t follow the steps correctly, handwashing is significantly less effective. For example, if soap isn’t used, if hands are not scrubbed for at least 20 seconds, or if hands are not dried properly. 

Yes, you read that correctly. To remove as many germs as possible, the hands must be dry. Sounds simple enough. Well, in a recent observational study by the United States Department of Agriculture, participants failed to wash their hands correctly 97% of the time.

In this article and video, we’ll review the 5 key steps for proper handwashing, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, to keep you protected from illness-causing germs and bacteria. 

There are plenty of benefits to handwashing, but the key three benefits include preventing illness, reducing the spread of germs, and encouraging better overall hygiene. 

  1. Prevents Illness

People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without realizing it. When doing so, they transfer germs from their fingers to their face. 

Germs and bacteria from unwashed hands can also get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. In some types of dishes and beverages, under certain conditions, germs can even multiply.

Frequent handwashing removes germs, reducing both the likelihood of germs getting into one’s system and the risk of illness. 

  1. Reduces the Spread of Germs

Germs from unwashed hands transfer to other surfaces, like handrails, table tops, or toys, when touched. The germs are then transferred from those surfaces to another person’s hands.

Frequent and proper handwashing eliminates germs from hands, so the germs cannot spread as easily to objects or others. 

  1. Maintains Overall Health 

Good hand hygiene can help individuals maintain their overall health by reducing the risk of respiratory and other illnesses. 

It’s no surprise that frequent and proper handwashing helps prevent the spread of germs. Your hands carry germs you can’t see, and these germs can transfer to others through a physical touch, like a handshake, or to objects and surfaces, like a doorknob, when touched. 

Handwashing is especially important during certain times of the year when germs spread more easily. This includes but is not limited to: 

  • Before eating.
  • After touching garbage.
  • After wiping counters or cleaning other surfaces with chemicals.
  • After touching pets, pet food, or pet treats.
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Before, during, and after food prep.
  • After handling uncooked meat, poultry, seafood, flour, or eggs.
  • Before and after using gloves.

Use the following steps to wash your hands properly. 

  1. Wet Your Hands With Clean, Running Water 
  2. Lather Your Hands with Soap
  3. Scrub Your Hands For At Least 20 Seconds
  4. Thoroughly Rinse Your Hands Under Clean, Running Water.
  5. Dry Your Hands Using A Clean Paper Towel 
  1. Wet Your Hands With Clean, Running Water 

To begin, wet your hands with clean, running water. Using clean water is essential. If clean water is not available, consider using hand sanitizer instead. If you choose to use hand sanitizer, always make sure that it has at least 60% alcohol for maximum effectiveness.             

Follow these five steps to effectively wash your hands and keep you and the people around you protected against illness.

Pro Tip: Hand sanitizer isn’t effective on visibly dirty or greasy hands, and it isn’t nearly as effective as handwashing. 

When handwashing, both cold and warm water remove the same amount of germs, so use whichever you prefer!

After wetting your hands, turn off the tap. If you’re not using an automatic faucet, use your elbow to turn it off. After the tap is off, apply soap to your hands. This is done to avoid picking up even more bacteria from the faucet. 

  1. Lather Your Hands with Soap 

Next, rub your hands together with the soap. You know you’re doing it right when the soap turns frothy or bubbly. 

Make sure to lather all surfaces of your hand, including your palm, the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and underneath the nails.

  1. Scrub Your Hands For At Least 20 Seconds

Step 3 is the most neglected part, so pay close attention. Continue rubbing your hands together, massaging between fingers and under the nails, for AT LEAST 20 seconds. This is to make sure the soap has enough time to work its magic. 

If you have a hard time keeping track of how long you scrubbed, a handy trick is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Doing this will give you enough scrub time.

  1. Thoroughly Rinse Your Hands Under Clean, Running Water

After scrubbing for 20 seconds, rinse your hands under clean, running water. You should do this for as long as it takes to remove the soap completely. 

  1. Dry Your Hands Using A Clean Paper Towel 

For the final step, dry your hands off with a clean paper towel. 

It’s incredibly important that you dry your hands after cleaning them. Wet hands promote the growth and spread of germs, so use a paper towel. 

If you have the choice to use a hand dryer or paper towels, always use paper towels. Believe it or not, hand dryers increase the number of germs on your hands instead of reducing them it.

Meanwhile, a clean paper towel removes up to 77% of the bacteria from your hands. 

Watch our video, Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels, to learn more about why hand dryers are so unsanitary!

Final Thoughts

Hand hygiene is fundamental to protecting yourself and those around you from illness-causing germs. 

Frequent handwashing eliminates disease-carrying bacteria, reduces the risk of cross-contamination, and promotes good hygiene, making it a key aspect of hand hygiene that should be practiced consistently as part of your daily routine. 

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can help keep yourself and those in your building healthy.

Imperial Dade locations have a wide range of hand soaps and hand sanitizers to help you develop a robust hand hygiene program for your facility. We also offer free on-site or virtual consultations to help you identify gaps in your hand hygiene program, such as poor soap and sanitizer placement or broken dispensers. 

If you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, or Canada, contact a specialist today for help determining how you can enhance your program with strategic dispenser placement, new dispensing systems, and sanitizers to ensure your occupants are able and encouraged to wash and sanitize their hands frequently.

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