We often get sick because we don’t properly wash our hands, especially during cold and flu season. Proper (and frequent) hand washing is the best defense from illness. And since staying healthy is usually top of mind for everyone this time of year, we have compiled these tips for washing your hands.
How to wash your hands
- Run your hands under water, cold or warm
- Lather soap between your hands for 20 seconds or longer
- Rinse your hands again under running water
- Dry them with a clean towel
When to wash your hands
Sometimes it’s obvious when we should wash our hands, but other times, it might not seem necessary. Always wash your hands before or after completing the following activities.
- Preparing food
- Treating a wound or taking care of a person who is sick
- Preparing food
- Using the bathroom, or changing a diaper
- Handling contaminated products or garbage
Keeping your hands clean at work can be difficult, but it is important to take time to wash your hands, even when busy. Wash before and after shaking hands with people, or if you touch a colleague’s belongings.
What if I’m not near soap and water?
The traditional method is best, but hand sanitizer is a good substitute for washing if you can’t get to a sink. If you do use hand sanitizer, be sure that it is made up of at least 60 percent alcohol.
When washing your hands, be sure to cover everything, including under your fingernails—they can harbor dirt and germs and can continue spreading germs if not cleansed.
What about antibacterial soap?
Antibacterial soap, often thought to be particularly protective against germs, is now banned in the United States. Triclosan, a chemical commonly used in antibacterial products, was found in low concentrations to put pressure on bacteria that allowed it to evolve rapidly. Retailers are being forced to get rid of the chemical along with several others, within a year of when the ban took effect. In the meantime, regular soap should work well to protect you against illnesses, but be sure to remember to wash your hands frequently.
If you’re feeling unwell and are unsure about the cause, learn the differences between viral and bacterial infections, and consult your doctor if symptoms persist.
If you're looking for more information on the flu and how to avoid it, download our guide: "How to Get Rid of the Flu or Not Get It At All."