7 Steps to Washing Your Hands Properly

7 Steps to Washing Your Hands Properly

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, proper hand hygiene is vital to lowering infectious disease transmission.

In fact, research has shown that handwashing lowers the rates of certain respiratory and gastrointestinal infections up to 23 and 48 percent, respectively.

Chapter 1

7 Steps to Washing Your Hands Properly

by: careana

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, proper hand hygiene is vital to lowering infectious disease transmission.

According to the CDC, washing your hands frequently is particularly important to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as COVID-19.

In this article, we’ll look at the key steps to washing your hands correctly to ensure they’re free of germs that can cause serious infections.

How to wash your hands

Below is the seven-step handwashing technique endorsed by the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO):

Steps to washing your hands properly

  1. Wet your hands with clean — preferably running — water.
  2. Apply enough soap to cover all surfaces of your hands and wrists.
  3. Lather and rub your hands together briskly and thoroughly. Make sure to scrub all surfaces of your hands, fingertips, fingernails, and wrists.
  4. Scrub your hands and wrists for at least 20 seconds.
  5. Rinse your hands and wrists under clean — preferably running — water.
  6. Dry your hands and wrists with a clean towel, or let them air-dry.
  7. Use a towel to turn off the faucet.

The key to washing your hands is to make sure you thoroughly clean all surfaces and areas of your hands, fingers, and wrists.

Here are more detailed handwashing steps recommended from the WHOTrusted Source

. Follow them after you’ve wet your hands with water and soap.

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After you’ve completed these steps, you can rinse and dry your hands.

Does it matter what type of soap you use? 

Plain soap is just as good at disinfecting your hands as over-the-counter antibacterial soaps. In fact, research has found that antibacterial soaps aren’t any more effective at killing germs than regular, everyday soaps.

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source

 banned the use of the antibacterial agents triclosan and triclocarban. The reasons cited by the FDA for the ban of these agents included:

  • antibacterial resistance
  • systemic absorption
  • endocrine (hormone) disruption
  • allergic reactions
  • overall ineffectiveness

So, if you happen to have older bottles of antibacterial soap stocked away, it’s best not to use them. Throw them out, and just use regular soap instead.

Also, there’s no evidence to suggest that the water temperature makes a difference. According to one studyTrusted Source

, washing your hands in warm water doesn’t seem to get rid of more germs.

The bottom line is that it’s safe to use whatever water temperature is right for you, and use any regular liquid or bar soap you have on hand.


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When to wash your hands

Washing your hands is particularly important when you’re in situations where you’re more likely to acquire or transmit germs. This includes:

  • before, during, and after you prepare food
  • before and after you:
  • consume foods or drinks
  • are exposed to someone with an infectious illness
  • enter a hospital, doctor’s office, nursing home, or other healthcare setting
  • clean and treat a cut, burn, or wound
  • take medication, such as pills or eye drops
  • use public transportation, especially if you touch railings and other surfaces
  • touch your phone or other mobile device
  • go to the grocery store
  • after you:
  • cough, sneeze, or blow your nose
  • touch visibly dirty surfaces, or when there’s visible dirt on your hands
  • handle money or receipts
  • have touched a gas pump handle, ATM, elevator buttons, or pedestrian crossing buttons
  • shake hands with others
  • engage in sexual or intimate activity
  • have used the bathroom
  • change diapers or clean bodily waste off others
  • touch or handle garbage
  • touch animals, animal feed, or waste
  • touch fertilizer
  • handle pet food or treats


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