Proper Hand Washing Technique: How to wash your hands properly

New products like antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers clamor for our attention, but plain old soap and water is still a good way to clean your hands.

In studies, washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing one chorus of "Happy Birthday to You") reduces bacterial counts by about 90%. But even people who are conscientious about washing their hands often make the mistake of not drying them properly. Wet hands are more likely to spread germs than dry ones.

Today, almost half of the hand soaps on the market have an antibacterial additive. The big question has been whether use of antibacterial soaps will worsen the problem of antibiotic resistance. Even if antibiotic resistance weren’t an issue, results from studies suggest that antibacterial soaps available to consumers don’t add much to hand hygiene. The findings are a useful reminder that antibacterial soaps aren’t the all-purpose germ fighters that many people think they are.


The hot new products in hand hygiene are alcohol-based rubs, sold as hand sanitizers. The big advantage of these cleansers is that you don’t need water or a towel, so you can use them anywhere. But alcohol doesn’t kill everything. That’s why it shouldn’t be the only cleaner available in health care settings. To be effective, the rubs need to come into contact with all surfaces of your hands. For that reason, studies have shown that using small amounts is really no better than washing with plain soap and water.


Use Proper Handwashing Techniques – Protect Your Health


Handwashing is the single most important procedure for preventing the spread of biological contamination. Despite this fact many laboratory personnel don't wash their hands properly. Here are some handwashing tips and procedures for your use.

1. Consider the sink, including the faucet controls, contaminated.

2. Avoid touching the sink.


3. Turn water on using a paper towel and then wet your hands and wrists.


4. Work soap into a lather.


5. Vigorously rub together all surfaces of the lathered hands for 15 seconds. Friction helps remove dirt and microorganisms. Wash around and under rings, around cuticles, and under fingernails


6. Rinse hands thoroughly under a stream of water. Running water carries away dirt and debris. Point fingers down so water and contamination won't drip toward elbows.


7. Dry hands completely with a clean dry paper towel.


8. Use a dry paper towel to turn faucet off.

9. To keep soap from becoming a breeding place for microorganisms, thoroughly clean soap dispensers before refilling with fresh soap or use sealed soap refills.


10. When handwashing facilities are not available at a remote work site, use appropriate antiseptic hand cleaner or antiseptic towelettes. As soon as possible, rewash hands with soap and running water.


When Should Hands Be Washed?

  • After touching ears, nose, mouth, hair.
  • Any contact with infected or otherwise unsanitary areas of the body.
  • After use of handkerchief or tissue
  • Hand contact with unclean equipment or work surfaces.
  • Hand contact with soiled clothing, shop rags, or any other material that is soiled.
  • Handling raw food – partially cooked meat or poultry.
  • Handling money.
  • Eating.
  • After using the restroom.

Fun Facts on Hand Hygiene


  • We have between 2 and 10 million bacteria between our fingertips and elbows (not all bad!).
  • Damp hand spread 1,000 times more germs than dry hands.
  • The number of germs on your fingertips doubles after you use the restroom.
  • Germs can stay alive on hands for up to three hours.
  • Millions of germs hide under watches, rings and bracelets.