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Coronavirus (Covid-19) information: How to keep yourself, your loved ones and your home safe.

Hand hygiene: How to wash your hands effectively

Wondering how long you should wash your hands for and what the best procedure for hand washing is? Read our guide to hand hygiene for all the answers.

Updated

hands washing under sink with running water

Hand washing is an easy way to keep your home, your family, and yourself clean. Any person in your home will come into contact with a number of items via their hands – doorknobs, countertops, pets, faces, food, bathrooms, utensils and so on. With the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), it is important to follow hand washing guidelines to prevent such illness spreading.

When to practise hand hygiene

Given that the purpose of hand washing is to stop the spread of germs and viruses, it makes sense that hand washing is the next (and necessary) step whenever you can.

The best times to practise good hand hygiene are before and after certain tasks.

This means washing your hands before:

  • Cooking or preparing food (you should wash your hands during this process too)

  • Eating (at home or at a restaurant)

  • Treating a wound, cut, skin irritation or abrasion

  • Visiting the hospital or entering a hospital room

And after:

  • Using the bathroom

  • Handling raw meat

  • Coughing, sneezing, etc.

  • Leaving and returning home

  • Taking out the rubbish or cleaning

  • Changing a nappy

  • Working in the garden

  • Helping an injured person

  • Visiting the hospital

If you don’t have access to soap and water whilst out and about, use hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol instead.

You will need:

  • Bristled brush
  • Towel
  • Soap
  • Hand sanitiser (optional)

How to wash your hands

Let us guess, you already know this one right? Apply soap, rub hands together, rinse off. Sound about right?

Actually, if you want to give your hands a proper and thorough clean then you need to make sure you’re doing more than giving them a quick splash under the tap. Younger family members may not be quite as vigilant with their hand washing, or require a little assistance too, so it’s important to brush up on the basic procedure for hand washing yourself.

  1. Wet your hands and apply plenty of soap

    When it comes to Coronavirus (COVID-19), soap and water is your best bet, as soap dissolves the fat membrane of the virus. Get your hands wet (cold or warm water) and apply enough soap to get suds on every surface of your hands. If you have sensitive skin, be sure to use a soap which is kind to your skin.

    Overwashing your hands can cause dryness which can lead to cracks in your skin. This can be an entry point for Coronavirus. Try to keep your hands moisturised as well.

    Step 1: person adding soap and water to their hands
  2. Make some bubbles!

    Rub your hands palm to palm vigorously, then with one hand over the top of the other to get in-between your fingers. Switch hands.

    Step 2: person making bubbles with soap for hand washing
  3. Wash your fingers

    Interlace your fingers, palm to palm, to get in-between the base of your fingers.

    Step 3: person washing fingers for hand washing
  4. Make sure all your fingers are covered in soap and cleaned

    Make a fist around your left thumb with your right hand and gently twist back and forth. Switch hands.

    Step 4: person getting between fingers for hand washing
  5. Get under your fingernails

    Using either your other hand or a bristled brush, clean under your fingernails and around cuticles.

    Step 5: person washing finger nails
  6. Dry using a clean towel or hand dryer

    Dry well, with a clean towel or hand dryer – your ‘clean’ trousers don’t count!

If hand washing isn’t an option for whatever reason then follow the exact same movements when using hand sanitiser, just make sure it contains 60% or more alcohol, as this is most effective at killing Coronavirus.

How concerned are you about disinfecting while cleaning?

How long should you wash your hands for?

The NHS recommends washing your hands for around 20 seconds, as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. This is a great way to get children to wash their hands properly as well! Washing your hands for the correct amount of time is vital to stopping Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading to other people and objects. 

Now that we’re clear on hand hygiene, it’s time to put it into action and help stop the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and germs.

Disclaimer:  The information in this article is accurate at the time of publishing. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it’s possible that some guidance may have changed since publication. While Cleanipedia is trying to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using GOV UK and NHS.

Originally published