Hands are useful for so much of our everyday tasks and activities—but when you’re worried about germs, keeping your hands clean can seem overwhelming.
How can you have proper hand hygiene when your hands touch everything? From shopping carts to door handles, hands help us get through the world. But along the way, they can pick up lots of germs.
It’s important to follow safety precautions while not going overboard. As long as you follow regular hand washing processes and wear gloves when necessary, you’ll be doing your part to prevent disease transmission and stay clean. This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about hand hygiene. Some of it might seem a bit basic, but it’s important to make sure you understand why you’re going through these steps.
How to Properly Wash Your Hands
You may have heard the popular advice to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing your hands to make sure you’re doing it long enough. This is just a way to get you to keep you at the sink for at least 20 seconds, so feel free to substitute whatever other songs can fill that time block. But the time alone isn’t all you need to think about.
You should use this time to scrub all parts of your hands, including your fingertips, fingernails, palms, and the backs of your hands. Use warm water for the most effective process. And, of course, make sure you get enough soap.
Drying Your Hands
Proper hand washing includes a thorough drying process. If you’re not drying your hands after you wash them, you could be creating an environment that encourages the spread of germs.
Wet hands can also dry out your skin as the water evaporates, leading to all kinds of problems. To keep your hands happy and healthy, make sure you do a thorough drying after washing your hands.
And make sure to wash that hand towel in your home bathroom! You’ll be rubbing your hands on it, so it’ll be good to know that the towel is as clean as your hands.
When to Wash Your Hands
Many people are used to washing their hands after using the toilet and if they’ve touched something dirty. Some people are also in the habit of washing their hands before meals.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, though, people are washing their hands more than ever. Many people who get infected are asymptomatic, so touching anything that other people might have recently touched carries a bigger risk than before.
To protect yourself from possible sources of virus transmission out in the world, you might want to wash your hands once you get home. If you’ve been grocery shopping, touching crosswalk signs, and opening doors, a good hand washing can help prevent you from any germs you may have picked up.
You can also wash your hands as a way of preventing others from picking up your germs. If you sneeze and use a tissue, washing your hands right after can remove potential pathogens from your hands.
Not everyone has a sink handy all the time. In this case, hand sanitizer can be a useful substitute. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), you should choose a sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
If the label doesn’t mention alcohol, look for “ethanol” or “ethyl alcohol,” which refer to the same thing. The alcohol should kill the germs on your hands, leaving them clean for whatever you need to do.
When you need to increase your level of hand hygiene, you can wear gloves as a barrier between you and potentially contaminated surfaces. This can also be a good precaution if you think you may be in close contact with other people’s hands (for example, if you are a cashier handing out change and receipts at a register).
In the past, people used to pair hand washing with gloves only if there was visible contact with a substance. These days, though, experts recommend hand washing after you take gloves off as a standard precaution. In case anything got through the gloves or you made a mistake in removal, hand washing can be an additional safety measure.
Speaking of glove removal, you should take a moment to make sure you’re doing this step right. Rather than pulling at the fingertips, you should take off gloves by pulling them inside out.
Pulling gloves off at the fingertips might seem to work okay for the first hand, but then you’re left with a bare hand and a gloved one. You can’t use the same method without touching the outside of a glove.
To play it safe, you should use the inside-out removal process for both gloves.
How Hand Hygiene Works
Why should you wash your hands anyway? You know it makes you cleaner, but why?
Well, it separates any dirt from your skin. And beyond that, it provides another layer of protection between you and pathogens.
Despite your best efforts, you might touch a contaminated surface or person. But this doesn’t always mean you’re already infected. If you wash your hands before getting a chance to touch your face, this could remove the risk of transmission.
Well, your hands might not actually squeak when you’re done cleaning them. But if you’ve done a proper job with your hand hygiene, you might feel a lot better about your general cleanliness.
These days, some safety precautions have gone from a job-specific concern to something everyday people have to learn about. Coming to this article is a great step in the direction of public health and safety! To learn more, check out some of our other articles about health precautions.