11 Hand-Washing Tips for Your Hospital Stay

Washing your hands well and often is one of the best things you can do to prevent infection while you're in the hospital. Soap and water are best.

Follow these tips so you don't catch a cold—or a serious infection—while you are here.

  • Wash your hands a lot.

  • Wash your hands after you touch visitors or members of your health care team.

  • Wash after you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze.

  • Wash before and after your wound dressings or bandages are changed.

  • Scrub your hands when you come back to your room from other parts of the hospital.

  • Wash up before and after you eat.

  • Wash your hands after you use the bathroom.

  • Use the right technique to wash your hands. Use running water and apply soap. Rub your hands together to make a lather. Scrub well for at least 20 seconds. Pay special attention to your wrists, the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails. Rinse your hands well under running water.

  • Use a clean towel to dry your hands, or let them air-dry. You may also want to hold a clean towel when you turn off the water, so you don't touch the faucet.

  • Use hand sanitizer if you don't have soap and water. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer next to your bed to clean your hands when you can't—or don't want to—get up to use the sink. The bottle will be a good reminder for visitors too. To use sanitizer, put some on your hand and then rub your hands and fingers together until they are dry.

  • Make sure others wash their hands. All people who touch you should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when they first come into your room. If you don't see health care workers wash their hands in your room, it's okay to remind them to do it. In some hospitals, staff wear buttons that say, "Ask me if I've washed my hands."