Frequent hand-washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness. This is especially true during the Covid-19 pandemic. Find out when and how to wash your hands properly by reading below.

When To Wash Your Hands

As you touch other people, surfaces and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. You can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and also spread them to others. Although it’s impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes. You can do so by using soap and water and, in addition, applying hand sanitizer.

Always wash your hands before:

  • Preparing food or eating
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses
  • Entering a grocery store or other public places.

Always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food
  • Using a restroom, changing a diaper, or cleaning up a child who has used a restroom
  • Touching an animal, animal food or animal waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick person
  • Handling garbage
  • Handling pet food or pet treats
  • Leaving a grocery store or other public places

Also wash your hands when they are visibly dirty.

How To Wash Your Hands

It’s generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are no more effective at killing germs than regular soap is.

Follow these steps:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water. Either warm or cold, but preferably warm.
  • Apply soap and lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse the soap off well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or air-dry them. Try to avoid hand towels that other individuals have previously used.

How To Use An Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizer

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which don’t require water, are an acceptable alternative when soap and water aren’t available. If you use a hand sanitizer, make sure the product contains at least 60% to 95% alcohol. Follow these steps:

  • Apply the gel hand sanitizer to the palm of one hand. Check the label to find out the appropriate amount.
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
  • Let the gel dry before touching objects.

Kids Need Clean Hands, Too

Help children stay healthy by encouraging them to wash their hands frequently. Wash your hands with your child to show them how it’s done. To prevent rushing, suggest washing hands for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. If your child can’t reach the sink on his or her own, keep a step stool handy.

Be sure to supervise young children using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Swallowing these can cause alcohol poisoning. Store the container safely away after use.

Learn more about using soap vs. sanitizers.

Read more about sanitizer manufacturing.

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