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The Importance of Handwashing: How to Wash Your Hands Properly

Read on to discover the importance of proper hand washing, and tips for how to wash hands properly.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

how to wash your hands properly

When you’re hungry, all you want to do is sit down to dinner, right? Well, there’s one task you should always make time for before eating, even if your food is already sitting and waiting on the table. That’s hand washing. It’s vital for us all to understand the importance of hand washing, as it’s one of the best ways to reduce the amount of bacteria and germs on our hands, which could make us sick.

Read on to discover why it is important to wash your hands, as well as top tips for how to wash hands properly with a guide to the proper hand washing procedure.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to tackle those germs. Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, will give you the right time frame to perfect the proper hand washing procedure.

Why is it important to wash your hands?

There are a few simple reasons which explain the importance of proper hand washing. These include:

  • Diarrhoea caused by poor hygiene is the 4th leading cause of death among Filipino children. With simple changes to our everyday lifestyle and ensuring that we and our children understand how to wash hands properly means we can reduce this risk.

  • Often, germs are spread through inhalation of fine droplets produced when we sneeze or cough which is often done into our hands. Washing your hands thoroughly afterwards or using a tissue instead will help reduce the risk of spreading these germs.

  • Washing hands can also help reduce the risk of falling ill through food poisoning, which can be contracted if food prepared has not been properly handled.

  • Our hands are the part of the body that most come into contact with surfaces that could be covered in bacteria, such as kitchen sides, bathroom sinks and door handles. Often, we then touch our eyes, noses and mouths which is how bacteria and viruses gain access to our bodies to make us ill.

When do we need to follow proper hand washing steps?

Now you understand the importance of hand washing, the next step is to understand when you should be using the proper hand washing procedure. We have sharedthe  top times you need to wash your hands below:

  • When you come home from being outside. Whether you have been travelling on public transport, just got in from work, or simply went for a walk in the park it is important to make sure your hands are clean when you return home. Viruses such as influenza can survive for up to 24 hours on hard surfaces such as keyboards you use at work or handrails on public transport. If these transfer to your hands it could cause you to become ill, so always ensure you wash your hands thoroughly.

  • Before preparing food in the kitchen. When it comes to preparing food, no matter what you have been doing, it is important to make sure you wash your hands. Even if they look clean, bacteria aren’t visible to the naked eye and could still be there and transfer to the food you are preparing.

  • After preparing raw food, in particular raw meat. In order to prevent food poisoning and bacteria causing illnesses like salmonella, you must always wash your hands after handling raw meat. This applies even before going on to prepare other parts of meals and dishes, such as vegetables, rice or pasta.

  • When you have been to the toilet or have helped a dependant (such as children) do so. No matter how often you clean your toilet and bathroom, it is one of the most likely places to harbour those unseen bacteria which could cause you to fall ill. Always ensure you wash your hands after using the toilet yourself or after helping someone else to use the toilet, and teach any dependants to do the same.

  • If you come into contact with a colleague, friend or family member who is unwell. No matter how clean you think your hands are, if you have touched someone who is unwell or any surfaces that they may have touched while feeling unwell, it is important to wash your hands. Keeping your hands clean will help you to avoid bacteria that made them ill.

washing hands
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What is the proper hand washing procedure?

By following these proper hand washing steps whenever our hands are dirty, we can keep ourselves and our families happier and healthier.

  • Use soap and water. The proper way of handwashing involves using soap and water together to kill any bacteria. Studies have found that while water alone only kills around 77% of bacteria, soap and water combined can kill up to 92% of those nasty germs. If you don’t have easy access to clean water, don’t worry. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer and ‘tippy taps’ are starting to be introduced in the Philippines, which can make it much easier for you to wash effectively.

  • Develop a great hand washing technique. Is there a ‘right’ way to wash your hands? Oh yes! Remember, germs could be hiding anywhere, so follow these proper hand washing steps to make sure you get rid of as many nasties as possible:

  1. Rub the soap around your thumbs, covering them completely.

  2. Rub your hands together palm to palm and palm to back of the hand to cover the main surfaces of your hands.

  3. Rub soap in between your fingers.

  4. Use soap and a nail brush to clean underneath the nails.

  5. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

  • Think before you touch. Whilst knowing how to wash hands properly is important, sometimes prevention is better than cure. If you’re out and about when nature calls, be careful what you touch after washing your hands – remember, that door handle has probably been touched by people that skipped the sink after doing their business. If tissues or paper towels are available, grab one to open the door with, then dispose of it as soon as you can. You don’t want to undo those 20 seconds of good work.

Now you know how to wash hands properly, and understand that the proper hand washing steps take no more than 20 seconds to complete, you can make it a part of your everyday lifestyle. After all, it’s only 20 seconds and we all have time for that, right? October 15th may well be Global Handwashing Day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t practice good hygiene every other day of the year. Stay clean. Stay healthy.

Key Steps

  • Use soap and water.

  • Clean your thumbs, in between your fingers, your palms, backs of your hands and under your nails.

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

  • Always wash your hands before preparing food, after handling raw food, using the toilet or helping others to do so, and when returning home.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on washing hands

Is it necessary to follow these handwashing steps in order?

Following the handwashing steps in order is important as it is the only effective way to avoid the spreading of viruses, harmful bacteria, and other micro-organisms.

Is there a correct handwashing procedure to protect against Coronavirus specifically?

Following our guide from what to use and the steps to follow is the correct handwashing procedure to protect against Covid-19 and other viruses. It’s important to note that in addition to understanding when and how to wash your hands, you should also regularly use hand sanitizer throughout the day to help reduce your risk of catching or transferring viruses.

What is the most important aspect of hand washing?

The most important aspect of hand washing is using soap. This step is the most important way to remove harmful germs and bacteria from your hands – water alone simply won’t cut it. Contrary to popular belief the temperature of the water doesn’t affect the risk of contamination.

Originally published