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Frequent washing can leave your hands dry, rough, cracked, or peeling. Have hand lotion available to use after washing your hands to help remedy these issues.

If you do not have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer. Contrary to popular belief, hand sanitizer is not more effective in killing germs than washing with soap and water. Furthermore, hand sanitizer will not clean hands that are dirty or covered with substances.

Do not use your clean hands to turn off the faucet. Instead, use your elbow or a paper towel.

Dry hands completely with a clean cloth towel, paper towels or an air dryer.

Rinse hands thoroughly under clean running water, making sure all soap is washed away.

Wash each hand fully on both sides, as well as between fingers, under fingernails, and above wrists.

Rub your hands together vigorously to generate a good lather. Continue washing for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, humming the Happy Birthday song twice at normal speed usually lasts about 20 seconds.

Wash with a generous amount of soap. Antibacterial soap is not necessary. In fact, various studies have determined that antibacterial soap is not more effective in killing germs than regular soap.

Wet your hands under clean, running water. Using stagnant water in a full sink will not clean your hands well enough to wash away germs. (If desired, water can be turned off after hands are wet and turned on again for rinsing.)

Tips on How to Wash Your Hands

Before and after changing a diaper.

Before and after treating wounds.

Before and after contact with someone who is ill.

After coughing or sneezing into your hand or blowing your nose.

After contact with an animal, animal leash, animal toys, or animal waste.

After using the bathroom.

After shaking hands with others.

After handling garbage or trash.

Before eating or feeding children.

Before, during and after food preparation and cooking – especially after working with raw meat or poultry.

Tips on When to Wash Your Hands

How many people and things do your hands come in contact with in one day? How many doorknobs do you turn? How many banisters do you hold on to? How many hands do you shake? How many sneezes or coughs do you politely cover with a hand? A lot. That’s why hand washing is so important.

Sometimes, it is easy to tell when our hands need washing. But, even when they look clean, hands may be carrying germs or bacteria we can’t see. The truth is our hands encounter millions of germs each day as they come in contact with people, objects and surfaces. In turn, our hands can very easily pass along these germs to anything we touch.

Although it is impossible to keep your hands completely germ-free, washing them is a good start. Thorough hand washing is the most effective and easiest way to reduce the likelihood of spreading germs and illness. Washing your hands frequently and well can help you keep from catching a cold or prevent you from coming down with the flu. It can keep you from picking up an infection and/or experiencing food poisoning.

Proper hand washing is especially important in our “seasoned” years. Many older people have weakened immune systems, which can make us more susceptible to illness and infection.

The Why, When, and How of Hand Washing