Clean hands can help prevent you from catching and spreading colds and flus.  Before the cold and flu season starts, let’s focus on our proper handwashing technique.  Handwashing includes 5 simple and effective steps that can keep you healthy and reduce the spread of colds and flus as well as other illnesses.  Washing your hands regularly before and after certain activities is one of the best ways to remove germs and keep us from getting sick.  Many diseases and illnesses are spread by not washing our hands, or by not washing our hands effectively.  Handwashing is simple, quick and a lot cheaper than a visit to the doctor or missing a day or two of work.

First, here is a list of times you should definitely wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after food preparation;
  • Before eating;
  • After using the toilet;
  • After coughing or sneezing;
  • Before and after caring for someone that is sick;
  • Before and after treating a wound;
  • After changing diapers or cleaning someone else who has used the toilet;
  • After touching an animal, feeding an animal, or cleaning up waste after an animal;
  • After touching any type of waste product or garbage;
  • Anytime your hands become visibly soiled; and
  • Anytime you just think you should.

Now, let’s talk about proper handwashing technique and the science behind it.

Step 1
Wet your hands with clean, tepid (not hot, not cold), running water.  Running water is typically cleaner than using a basin as the water will be contaminated once your dirty hands touch the water.

Step 2
Apply soap.  Using soap is more effective than washing without soap as the surfactants in the soap help to lift soil and microbes from the skin surface, and people even tend to scrub hands more thoroughly when using soap.

Step 3
Lather your hands by rubbing them together.  Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails.  Continue to lather your hands for 20 seconds, or you can sing or hum the “Happy Birthday” song from the beginning to the end twice. Lathering helps to create friction which also helps in lifting dirt, microbes, and grease from the skin.  Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand especially under the nails, so be sure to scrub the entire hand.  Evidence suggests that washing hands for 15-30 seconds removes more germs than washing hands for any less amount of time.

Step 4
Rinse your hands well under clean warm running water. Rinsing the soap away reduces irritation to the skin.  Hands could become contaminated if anything other than clean running water is used.

Step 5
Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer.  If the sink does not automatically turn itself off, use a dry paper towel to turn the faucet off.  Germs are transferred more easily to wet hands and from wet surfaces.

It is simple and takes less than one minute to keep your hands clean, and now that you know when to and how to properly wash your hands you can keep yourself and others healthy this cold and flu season.


For more information about the upcoming flu season and additional ways to keep you and your workforce healthy, please contact me at (919) 459-5275 or [email protected].