You’ve been washing your hands forever – but are you doing it right?
Most of us learn at a young age to wash our hands before we eat and after we use the bathroom or handle an animal. You also probably know that proper hand-washing can support your health, but do you know what the recommended guidelines are?
Following proper hand-washing procedure can decrease your chances of catching or spreading harmful germs and bacteria, so get the facts on how to do it the right way.
Do You Know What’s on Your Hands?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that germs, also known as pathogens, are types of microbes or other agents (such as viruses) that can potentially cause disease. Microbes are miniscule living organisms, invisible to the naked eye. All kinds of microbes live on your hands. Most are benign, but any dangerous pathogens that attach to your hands can easily be absorbed by your body through your eyes, nose or mouth or be passed onto other people if you touch them or they touch something you’ve touched.
Human and animal feces are a particularly common source of germs to avoid leaving on your hands. According to the CDC, bacteria from feces can trigger diarrhea, respiratory infections, and even skin and eye infections. Any time you use the bathroom, change a baby or handle raw food that might be contaminated with trace amounts of feces, you must properly wash your hands to avoid disease.
The CDC reports that teaching the right hand-washing technique can decrease the number of people who get diarrhea by 31 percent and respiratory illness by up to 21 percent. Educating yourself and those around you on effective hygiene practices can make a huge difference in staying healthy.
Follow these six steps to ensure you’re following the best hand-washing procedure.
How to Wash Your Hands Properly
- Wet hands. The temperature is not important as long as you use clean, running water.
- Apply soap. Any soap will work – antibacterial soap has no proven benefit in effectiveness over regular hand soap.
- Lather up. Be sure to get soap on the entire surface of your hands and fingers, especially under your nails.
- Scrub for 20 seconds. Friction from the scrubbing motion lifts dirt and germs. Tip for parents: Teach your kids to sing the birthday song two times in a row while washing their hands to hold their attention for approximately 20 seconds.
- Rinse off. Hold your hands under clean running water to remove the dirt, germs and any soapy residue that remains, which can irritate your skin if not rinsed thoroughly.
- Dry hands. Use fresh paper towels, a clean hand towel or simply shake excess water into the sink to dry your thoroughly washed hands, and you’re all set!
When to Use Soap vs. Sanitizer
Using soap and water to clean your hands is always the best option, but if you don’t have access to these resources, reach for a hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60 percent alcohol. These sanitizers will not eliminate all germs, but they can reduce active microbes in situations where soap isn’t available.
To properly use hand sanitizer, apply a generous amount to your hands and rub them together until the entire solution fully absorbs and your hands feel dry again. Don’t use too small an amount or wipe off excess liquid. Remember that sanitizer will not be as effective on heavily soiled hands and may not remove chemicals or metals from your skin. Use extra precaution or consider wearing gloves if you’re working in these conditions without access to a hand-washing station.
Follow these simple tips for hand washing, and you’ll be better protected against harmful germs and bacteria. Want extra protection against nasty germs? Keep your home and office sanitized, too. For personalized service from a team of committed cleaning professionals, contact ServiceMaster Clean. Our experienced teams have the tools, training and techniques to safely and effectively clean your biggest messes 24/7/365 so you can focus at work and rest easy at home.