Everyday, we come in contact with thousands of microscopic germs which have the potential to make us sick. Keeping your hands clean is vital for helping you stay well and preventing the spread of illnesses.
When to wash your hands
When your hands look dirty, it's easy to tell that they need washing. But most of the time you won't see the germs that need to be cleaned off. That's why you should always wash and dry your hands at the following times:
Tip: If you have someone at home who is sick, you should wash your hands more frequently.
How to wash your hands
- Wet your hands with clean, running water – use warm water if available. Turn off the tap and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap – liquid is best. Rub hands together until the soap makes bubbles. Make sure to rub on both sides of both hands and in between fingers and thumbs.
- Rub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water – use warm water if available.
- Dry your hands – u sing a paper towel is best or, if at home, a clean dry towel.
Plain soap is as good as antiseptic soap
Antiseptics may be added to hand cleansers. However, plain soap has been shown to be just as effective as hand cleansers/soaps with added antiseptic agents. (1)
If soap and water are not available, an antiseptic hand sanitiser that can be used without water is a good alternative.
How to use hand sanitiser
- Apply one squirt of hand rub in a cupped hand.
- Rub hands palm to palm, up to and including wrists.
- Right palm over back of left with linked fingers and vice versa.
- Palm to palm with fingers linked.
- Backs of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked.
- Rotational rubbing of left thumb held in right palm and vice versa.
- Rotational rubbing firmly, with closed fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa. Once dry, your hands are safe.
Hygiene and hand washing KidsHealth NZ
Hand Hygiene Hand Hygiene, NZ
Hand washing: clean hands save lives Centre for Disease Control & Prevention
Why? Show me the science – data behind why & how to wash handsCentre for Disease Control & Prevention
- Antibacterial soap no more effective than plain soap at reducing bacterial contamination Oxford University Press via ScienceDaily, 16 September 2015