How to wash your hands

We’ve been washing our hands – and occasionally our mouths – with soap since we were kids, so it’s easy to assume we know how to do it. But the stats suggest that most of us are wrong.

A 2018 study suggested that just three per cent of us wash our hands correctly. The study monitored 383 people as they cooked and prepared food. It revealed that more than 97 per cent of them did not wash their hands correctly – after they were showed a food safety and hygiene video.

Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy. Here’s how.

  1. Run your hands and wrists under clean water. The temperature doesn’t matter.
  2. Lather your hands in soap. Scrub your palms, the backs of your hands, your fingers and under your nails.
  3. Wash your hands for 20 seconds. If you don’t keep a timer and aren’t in the mood to yet again sing Happy Birthday to yourself, humming the chorus of Dolly Parton’s Jolene or Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon will work just as well.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using and an air dryer or a clean towel.

If in doubt, follow this guide from the World Health Organisation:

If you aren’t able to wash your hands using soap, use a hand sanitiser with at least 60 per cent alcohol. However, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that hand sanitiser doesn’t necessarily kill all types of germs and is less effective on hands that are visibly dirty.  

When you should wash your hands, according to the CDC:

  • before, during, and after you prepare food
  • before eating food
  • before inserting or removing contact lenses
  • before and after treating a cut or injury
  • before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • after using the toilet
  • after changing nappies
  • after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose
  • after touching animals, their food, or waste
  • after handling rubbish.

Do you wash your hands often enough? What measures are you taking to keep yourself healthy?

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Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

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Written by Liv Gardiner

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