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Hand Washing

Hand washing is not only good for your health, it’s good for the health of the people around you!


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Why is hand washing good for your health?

Even when your hands look clean, there can be germs (bacteria and viruses) on your hands that can make you sick if they get into your mouth, eyes, nose or open cuts. 

Washing your hands removes these germs and helps to keep you healthy. 

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Hand Washing

Why is hand washing good for the health of the people around you?

You can pass the germs from your hands to others when you interact with them. You can also leave the germs from your unwashed hands on shared surfaces like doorknobs and shared equipment like keyboards. Washing your hands removes these germs and helps to keep the people around you healthy.

 Your hands pick-up germs while: 

  • using the bathroom and changing diapers
  • touching animals, their food and treats
  • shaking hands and touching others
  • handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables 
  • being around people who are sick
  • touching surfaces and objects around you. 

6 Steps for Hand Washing:

You need running water, liquid pump soap and paper towels. 

Hand washing:

  1. Wet hands: with warm running water
  2. Apply liquid soap: Antibacterial soaps are not necessary
  3. Lather hands: Be sure to scrub:
    • between your fingers,
    • your fingertips and fingernails,
    • the back of your hands and wrists
    Rub your hands for 20 seconds – the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
  4. Rinse well under running water
  5. Dry your hands with paper towel
  6. Use the paper towel to turn off the taps

Wash your hands:

  • After using the bathroom or changing diapers.
  • After touching animals, their waste (poop), their food or treats
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • After contact with someone who is sick
  • Before eating and preparing food.
  • Before touching your mouth, eyes, nose or open cuts
  • Anytime they look dirty

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What if I have no soap and running water?

When soap and water are not available alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used to reduce the number of germs on your hands. Sanitizers should contain 60-90% alcohol. 

Alcohol hand sanitizers are good at killing bacteria and most viruses. Sanitizers cannot get rid of all types of germs though. They do not work well when your hands are visibly dirty. If you can see dirt on your hands, it is important to wash them with soap and water.

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How do I use a hand sanitizer?

Hand Sanitizing:

hand sanitizer

  1. Apply the sanitizer to your hands. A dime size amount is enough.
    • If you just washed your hands make sure they are completely dry or the moisture left could dilute the alcohol and reduce its effectiveness.
  2. Rub hands together until the alcohol has evaporated.
    • Hands will feel dry in about 15 seconds.

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Why use alcohol hand sanitizer?  Aren’t there other products available that do not use alcohol? 

Alcohol hand sanitizers have the best effectiveness against bacteria and viruses. Many non-alcohol hand sanitizers are made with a chemical called quaternary ammonia compound. This chemical does not work well against several common germs including rhinovirus (a cause of the common cold) and norovirus (a common cause of diarrhea and vomiting). 

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If you have questions about preventing infections and would like to speak to a health professional, call the Infectious Disease Control Team at 519-663-5317 ext. 2330

Date of creation: February 22, 2013
Last modified on: February 1, 2024