Most people know that handwashing is one of the key ways to avoid getting sick or spreading germs to others, but a shocking number of people may not be washing their hands correctly. Simply rubbing soap on your hands and rinsing it off is not going to kill bacteria and prevent illness. In this article, we will look at what proper handwashing entails, especially during flu season.

The Basics

The use of soap is not effective if it is not used long enough, which is why applying soap to your hands and then immediately rinsing is not a good handwashing practice. Soap needs to be lathered into the skin for at least twenty seconds to kill the majority of germs on a person’s hands. Either time yourself by counting out loud or sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice before rinsing your hands.


Be sure to clean your palms, wrists, the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and gently scrape your nails back and forth over your palms to clean under them. If you have long, acrylic nails, you might want to use a nail brush.


Once you have finished, dry your hands on a hand-towel or paper towel if you’re in a public bathroom. Additionally, do not use the bathroom’s hand dryer, as they are quite unsanitary and blow the bacterial contents of the bathroom back onto your hands.


When your hands are clean and dry, it’s important to avoid recontamination for as long as possible. When leaving a public bathroom, keep in mind that some people will leave without washing their hands; as a result, the door handle is going to be one of the dirtiest places in the entire bathroom. To avoid coming into contact with bathroom germs, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and to pull the doorknob or handle.


Once you have left the bathroom, avoid touching your face as much as possible, and keep your hands clean throughout the day. While hand sanitizer does not do as good of a job as soap and water, it’s better than nothing at all. This means that if you happen to be out in public and you do not have access to a bathroom, an alcohol-rich hand sanitizer will work in a pinch to kill some of the germs that find their way back to your hands.


Simple handwashing can help prevent the spread of bacteria and disease, so knowing how to practice the most effective method is important. In addition to washing your own hands, encourage others when you can. If you have children, stress to them the importance of proper handwashing so that they can reduce their risk of contracting an illness as well.

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