What is the correct order of steps for handwashing?

hand wash


Handwashing is a simple yet powerful practice that can significantly reduce the risk of spreading infections and diseases. Proper handwashing techniques help eliminate harmful germs and bacteria from your hands, keeping you and those around you safe and healthy. In this article, we will explore the step-by-step process of handwashing, understand why it is important, and address common questions and misconceptions related to this essential hygiene practice.

Why Handwashing is Important

Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of germs and diseases. Our hands come into contact with various surfaces throughout the day, including doorknobs, countertops, and other people’s hands. These surfaces may harbor harmful pathogens that can cause illnesses such as colds, flu, and gastrointestinal infections.

By washing your hands properly and regularly, you can remove these germs from your skin, reducing the risk of infection. Handwashing is especially crucial before eating or preparing food, after using the restroom, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.

When to Wash Your Hands

To maintain good hand hygiene, it is important to know when to wash your hands. Here are some key situations that require handwashing:

  1. Before and after handling food, particularly raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
  2. Before eating or touching your face.
  3. After using the restroom.
  4. After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  5. After touching animals or their waste.
  6. After caring for someone who is sick.
  7. After handling garbage or cleaning products.

How to Properly Wash Your Hands

Follow these simple steps to ensure you are washing your hands effectively:

Step 1: Wet your hands with clean water

Turn on the tap and wet your hands thoroughly. Make sure the water is clean and at a comfortable temperature.

Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces

Lather your hands with an adequate amount of soap. Pay attention to the front and back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Step 3: Rub your hands together to create a lather

Rub your palms together vigorously, ensuring the soap reaches all areas of your hands. Interlace your fingers and rub the back of your hands and fingers as well.

Step 4: Scrub all hand surfaces for at least 20 seconds

Continue rubbing your hands together for at least 20 seconds. This duration allows enough time for the soap to break down and remove germs effectively. You can sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to keep track of the time.

Step 5: Rinse your hands thoroughly with clean water

Hold your hands under the running water and rinse off all the soap. Ensure that all traces of soap are washed away.

Step 6: Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry them

Use a clean towel or paper towel to dry your hands thoroughly. If a towel is not available, you can also air dry your hands. Remember to turn off the tap using a towel to avoid recontamination.

The Importance of Handwashing Technique

The technique used during handwashing plays a vital role in its effectiveness. While the steps mentioned above are essential, the following aspects should also be considered:

  • Duration: Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, as recommended by health experts.
  • Cover all surfaces: Ensure that all areas of your hands, including the palms, back, fingers, and nails, are thoroughly cleaned.
  • Friction: Rub your hands together with enough force to create friction. This helps dislodge and remove germs from the skin.
  • Thorough rinsing: Rinse your hands with running water to wash away all the soap and germs.

By following the correct technique, you maximize the benefits of handwashing and reduce the risk of infection.

Handwashing vs. Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers can be a convenient alternative when soap and water are not readily available. However, it is important to note that hand sanitizers are not as effective as handwashing when it comes to removing certain types of germs, such as those that cause diarrhea. Hand sanitizers should only be used when soap and water are unavailable, and they should contain at least 60% alcohol for optimal effectiveness.

Handwashing with soap and water remains the gold standard for hand hygiene. It is the most reliable way to eliminate a wide range of germs and protect against infections.

Teaching Kids Proper Handwashing Habits

Teaching kids proper handwashing habits is crucial for their health and well-being. Here are a few tips to help children develop good hand hygiene practices:

  • Lead by example and wash your hands together with your child.
  • Use child-friendly, colorful soaps to make handwashing fun and engaging.
  • Teach them to wash their hands before meals, after using the restroom, and after playing outside.
  • Explain the importance of handwashing in simple terms and emphasize its role in keeping them healthy.
  • Encourage them to sing a favorite song while washing their hands to ensure they do it for the recommended duration.

Hand Hygiene for Healthcare Professionals

Hand hygiene is of utmost importance in healthcare settings, where the risk of infections is higher. Healthcare professionals must follow strict hand hygiene protocols to prevent the spread of infections within hospitals and other medical facilities. They should adhere to guidelines provided by healthcare authorities and perform handwashing or hand sanitization before and after every patient interaction.

Common Handwashing Mistakes to Avoid

While handwashing is a simple practice, it is essential to do it correctly to maximize its benefits. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Insufficient duration: Washing your hands for less than 20 seconds may not effectively remove germs.
  2. Skipping hand surfaces: Neglecting certain areas of your hands, such as the back or fingertips, can leave germs behind.
  3. Using inadequate soap: Ensure you use enough soap to cover all hand surfaces and create a good lather.
  4. Rinsing improperly: Insufficient rinsing may leave soap residue on your hands.
  5. Not drying hands properly: Moist hands can harbor germs, so make sure to dry them thoroughly.

By avoiding these mistakes, you can enhance the effectiveness of handwashing and reduce the risk of infections.

The Role of Handwashing in Preventing Illnesses

Handwashing is a fundamental preventive measure in reducing the transmission of illnesses. It has been proven to be effective in preventing various infections, including:

  • Common colds and flu
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Skin infections

Regular and proper handwashing, combined with other hygienic practices like covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, can significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What is the recommended duration for handwashing?

A1: The CDC recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds to ensure effective germ removal.

Q2: Can handwashing prevent the common cold?

A2: While handwashing cannot guarantee complete protection against the common cold, it is an essential preventive measure in reducing its transmission.

Q3: Should I use hot or cold water for handwashing?

A3: You can use warm or cold water for handwashing. The important factor is to ensure that the water is clean and comfortable for you.

Q4: Is hand sanitizer an effective substitute for handwashing?

A4: Hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be used as a temporary substitute when soap and water are not available. However, handwashing with soap and water remains the best option for thorough hand hygiene.

Q5: How often should I wash my hands during the day?

A5: It is recommended to wash your hands several times a day, especially before and after specific activities such as eating, using the restroom, and coming into contact with potentially contaminated surfaces.


Handwashing is a simple yet powerful practice that can protect you and others from harmful germs and infections. By following the proper handwashing technique, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, and being mindful of key moments when handwashing is necessary, you can maintain good hand hygiene. Remember, clean hands contribute to a healthier and safer environment for everyone.

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