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Handwashing is more than just running water over your hands. Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infections. It helps prevent diseases, such as colds, influenza (flu), and foodborne illness. It's easy. It doesn't cost much. And it works.

Wash your hands:

Wash your hands after you:

Public health experts recommend the following steps for handwashing:

Figure 1

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold). Apply soap.

Figure 2

Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap.

Figure 3

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Scrub the backs of hands, between fingers, palms, and under nails.

Figure 4

Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

Figure 5

Protect your hand with a paper towel when you turn off the faucet. Dry your hands using a clean towel, or air-dry them.

If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer or alcohol-based hand wipe that contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol or isopropanol. Carry one or both with you when you travel, and keep them in your car or purse. These products can help reduce the number of germs on your hands. But they don't get rid of all types of germs.

If you use sanitizer, rub your hands and fingers until they are dry. You don't need to use water. The alcohol quickly kills many types of germs on your hands.

Credits for Handwashing

Current as of: February 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine

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