How to Wash Your Hands Correctly
With cold and flu season arriving, many people are reviewing proper hand washing techniques in the effort to decrease the spread of germs and keep themselves and their families healthier. Need a look at proper hand washing tactics? Follow these important steps.
When to Wash Your Hands
You want to wash your hands often enough to cut down on germs, but you also don’t want to walk around with dry, chapped hands all winter. Make sure that you wash your hands:
- When first arriving home, to cut down on outside germs introduced into the home
- After using the restroom
- Before handling food or eating
- After handling raw meats or eggs
- Before and after caring for a sick child or loved one
- After changing a diaper or helping a toddler in the restroom
- After touching an animal, their food, or their feces, including cleaning out litter boxes
- After dealing with rubbish in any form
- After touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, to avoid transmitting your germs to someone else
- After coughing or sneezing, especially while ill
- Any time you get involved in a dirty, messy job–after all, you don’t want to spread that dirt to other areas of your home!
How Should You Wash Your Hands?
Most people assume that hand washing is a simple procedure–and it is. However, just sticking your hands under the tap to take advantage of running water won’t get your hands clean. Instead, follow these steps.
1) Wet your hands thoroughly with running water. Allowing the water to warm up can make hand washing more comfortable in the winter. Always test the temperature before washing the hands of a small child.
2) Lather up with soap. Ideally, you want to see that familiar white, foamy lather all over your hands, indicating that the soap is doing its job and chasing away the germs. Some people avoid using soap, especially in public restrooms, because they are sensitive to chemicals or fragrances. If this is you, purchase natural soaps instead of traditional chemical-laden ones. You may even want to carry a small travel bottle for use in public restrooms.
3) Scrub. You should scrub your hands for at least twenty seconds in order to effectively wash away as many germs as possible. Simply waving your hands near soap isn’t enough to get the job done–and it could leave you with a false sense of security. Scrub between your fingers and up to your wrists, especially if you’ve been involved in a dirty job or dealing with illness.
4) Rinse away the soap. You’re washing away the germs along with it!
5) Dry your hands. Especially in cold winter weather, you don’t want to walk around with wet hands. Both blow dryers and using a towel or paper towel can help dry your hands; however, blow dryers that are not properly cleaned can actually spread germs to your freshly-washed hands. Make sure you carefully consider your options when drying your hands.
Does Hand Sanitizer Work?
If you’re stuck without access to soap and water, hand sanitizer can help get you by until you’re able to wash your hands at the sink. Hand sanitizer, however, only kills the germs–and not all of them! Scrubbing with soap and water does a much better job of eradicating those germs, not to mention removing grit, grime, and oil from your hands. Sanitizers may also not effectively remove things like pesticides and chemicals, which you don’t want to leave on your skin any longer than necessary. If you must use hand sanitizer as a substitute for soap and water, try to clean your hands at the sink as soon as possible.
Hand washing can go a long way toward preventing the spread of germs, both to yourself and to others around you when someone in your family is ill. By exercising proper hand washing techniques this winter, you could just keep those around you healthier.