Keep it simple. Wash your hands.

How Hand Washing Reduces Health Risks

Hand-to-hand contact can spread mild conditions, such as the common cold, but also more severe or life-threatening diseases. Infectious diseases are a particular risk to the very young, the elderly, those with a pre-existing disease, and people with a compromised immune system, such as those with HIV or AIDS.

Proper Methods of Hand Washing

Although hand washing might seem like a simple task, you should follow these steps to thoroughly rid your hands of germs.

Using Soap

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand cleansers are useful when soap and water are not available. In most cases antibacterial soap is not necessary for safe, effective hand hygiene.
  • Remove any hand or arm jewellery you may be wearing and wet your hands with warm water. Add regular soap and rub your hands together, ensuring you have lathered all surfaces for at least 15 seconds. How long is 15 seconds? The length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.
  • Wash the front and back of your hands, as well as between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Rinse your hands well under warm running water, using a rubbing motion.
  • Wipe and dry your hands gently with a paper towel or a clean towel. Drying them vigorously can damage the skin.
  • Turn off the tap using the paper towel so that you do not re-contaminate your hands. When using a public bathroom, use the same paper towel to open the door when you leave.
  • If skin dryness is a problem, use a moisturizing lotion.

If you have sensitive skin or are in a position where you must wash your hands constantly (as a healthcare worker must), you might want to use an alcohol-based hand rub instead.

Using Alcohol-based Hand Rubs

  • An alcohol-based hand rub can be used if soap and water are not available.
  • If your hands are visibly soiled, it is best to use soap and water. If it’s not possible to wash with soap and water, use towelettes to remove the soil, then use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Use hand rubs according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure your hands are dry, as wet hands will dilute the product.
  • Use enough product to cover all the surfaces of your hands and fingers.
  • Rub your hands together until the product has evaporated. If dry skin is a problem, use a moisturizing lotion.