We have all been washing our hands for a long time, but we may not have always washed them effectively. I’ve seen guys barely splash water on their hands, wipe their hands lightly on their shirt, and grab the door handle. That may actually be worse than not washing your hands at all because the damp hands may help germs grow and definitely helps them spread.
So, I wanted to see what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends. It turns out CDC has specific guidance for both how and when we should wash up. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
Proper Hand Washing
The CDC recommends five simple steps to wash your hands:
- Wet your hands under clean, running water. It can be warm or cold. For me, the hotter it is, the better.
- Apply soap and lather. Get all of your hands—between the fingers, under the nails, the backs of your hands, around your thumbs, and all around your wrists.
- Scrub thoroughly. The CDC suggests humming “Happy Birthday” twice to make sure you scrub for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well, again with clean, running water.
- Dry your hands completely with a clean towel or air dryer.
What About Sanitizers?
If you don’t have access to clean, running water, soap, and towels, hand sanitizers are better than nothing, but they are not as effective as simply cleaning your hands. Sanitizers don’t kill all kinds of germs. They are much less effective when your hands are really dirty or greasy, and they don’t remove harmful chemicals that can get on your hands as part of daily life.
When to Wash
We all know you should wash up before you start preparing food. But the CDC also recommends washing up several times while you’re cooking, like after touching raw meat or when changing the types of food you’re working with.
You should also wash up:
- After using the bathroom (and before if you’re a mechanic)
- Before meals
- After caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut, wound, or burn
- After blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing
- After touching an animal, its food, or its waste
- After touching garbage
This graphic provides a more detailed handwashing procedure.
The CDC is rolling out a new program: “Life is Better with Clean Hands.”