Handwashing Tips

Why Is Handwashing Important?

Hand washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Good hand washing technique is easy to learn and can significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases among both children and adults.


What types of disease can good hand washing prevent?


  • Diseases spread through fecal-oral transmission. Infections which may be transmitted through this route include salmonellosis, shigellosis, hepatitis A, giardiasis, enterovirus, amebiasis, and campylobacteriosis. Because these diseases are spread through the ingestion of even the tiniest particles of fecal material, hand washing after using the toilet can not be over-emphasized.
  • Diseases spread through indirect contact with respiratory secretions. Microorganisms which may be transmitted through this route include influenza, streptococcus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the common cold. Because these diseases may be spread indirectly by hands freshly soiled by respiratory discharges of infected people, illness may be avoided by washing hands after coughing or sneezing and after shaking hands with an individual who has been coughing and sneezing.
  • Diseases may also be spread when hands are contaminated with urine, saliva or other moist body substances. Microorganisms which may be transmitted by one or more of these body substances include cytomegalovirus, typhoid, staphylococcal organisms, and Epstein-barr virus. These germs may be transmitted from person to person or indirectly by contamination of food or inanimate objects such as toys.

Four Simple Steps To Keep Hands Clean

1. Wet your hands with warm running water.

2. Add soap, then rub your hands together, making a soapy lather. Do this away from the running water for at least 10 seconds, being careful not to wash the lather away. Wash the front and back of your hands, as well as between your fingers and under your nails.

3. Rinse your hands well under warm running water. Let the water run back into the sink, not down to your elbows. Turn off the water with a paper towel and dispose in a proper receptacle.

4. Dry hands thoroughly with a clean towel.

What Type Of Soap Should Be Used?

Any type of soap may be used. However, bar soap should be kept in a self draining holder that is cleaned thoroughly before new bars are put out and liquid soap containers (which must be used in day care centers) should be used until empty and cleaned before refilling.

To prevent chapping use a mild soap with warm water; pat rather than rub hands dry; and apply lotion liberally and frequently.

Mistakes To Avoid Regarding Handwashing

1. DON’T use a single damp cloth to wash a group of children’s hands.

2. DON’T use a standing basin of water to rinse hands.

3. DON’T use a common hand towel. Always use disposable towels in day care or food preparation settings.

4. DON’T use sponges or non-disposable cleaning cloths unless you launder them on a regular basis, adding chlorine bleach to the wash water. Remember that germs thrive on moist surfaces!