When & How to Wash Your Hands
When should you wash your hands?
• Before, during, and after preparing food
• Before eating food
• Before and after caring for someone who is sick
• Before and after treating a cut or wound
• After using the toilet
• After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
• After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
• After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
• After handling pet food or pet treats
• After touching garbage
How should you wash your hands?
• Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
• Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
• Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
• Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
• Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Because hands could become recontaminated if placed in a basin of standing water that has been contaminated through previous use, clean running water should be used 1. However, washing with non-potable water when necessary may still improve health 2, 3. The temperature of the water does not appear to affect microbe removal; however, warmer water may cause more skin irritation
and is more environmentally costly.
What should you do if you don’t have soap and clean, running water?
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microbes on them in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
How do you use hand sanitizers?
• Apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
• Rub your hands together.
• Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers1,2. Non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers may 1) not work equally well for all classes of germs (for example, Gram-positive vs. Gram-negative bacteria, Cryptosporidium, norovirus); 2) cause germs to develop resistance to the sanitizing agent; 3) merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright, or 4) be more likely to irritate skin than alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
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