How to Wash Your Hands and Prevent Illness

Young men's version of this guide
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Washing your hands is the BEST way to lessen your chance of becoming ill and to lower the risk of spreading germs when you’re sick.

What’s the big deal? Is there a right way to wash your hands?

There actually is a right way to wash your hands, which is the best method to lower germs from being spread from person to person. You can use any kind of soap you like. Antibacterial soap is good but regular soap is fine too.

  1. First, using clean warm water (not cold or hot), wet your hands and apply soap.
  2. Lather up the soap and scrub both sides of your hands, between your fingers, around your fingernails, and around your wrists.
  3. Wash your hands for 20 seconds. A way to remember this is to sing, hum or whistle the song, “Happy Birthday” two times.
  4. Rinse your hands with warm water
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel. If you are in a public restroom, use paper towels.

If your hands get dry or chapped, it’s okay to apply lotion after you wash your hands.

How often do I need to wash my hands?

  • BEFORE (during and after) you prepare a meal or snack.
  • BEFORE eating any kind of food
  • BEFORE and AFTER taking care of someone who is sick
  • BEFORE and AFTER taking care of a cut or scrap
  • AFTER using the toilet
  • AFTER helping someone use the toilet or after changing a diaper
  • AFTER handling garbage
  • AFTER petting an animal or touching animal food or waste
  • AFTER coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose

Is it okay to use a hand sanitizer instead of soap and water?

It’s always best to wash your hands with soap and warm water when you can but for those times when you can’t, it’s fine to use a hand sanitizer (make sure to check that it is 60% alcohol). Be sure to read the label to see how much hand sanitizer to use.

  • Apply the hand sanitizer to your palms (inside area of your hands)
  • Rub your hands together and be sure to get the liquid in between your fingers.
  • Let your hands air dry