Chances are you have been washing your own hands for quite a while. All it takes is a little soap and some water, right? Actually, there is a bit more to hand washing. Find out how to wash your hands correctly and why it matters so much.

Here's Why

The single most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick and to stop the spread of disease-causing germs is to wash your hands often. By frequently washing your hands, you wash away germs that you may have picked up from other people or from contaminated surfaces. One of the most common ways people catch colds and the flu is by rubbing their noses or eyes after their hands have been contaminated with the cold or flu virus. More frequent hand washing may be able to reduce the spread of the these viruses. Some studies show that when children are taught to carefully wash their hands school absenteeism is reduced, even more so when alcohol-based hand rubs are combined with hand washing.

You cannot see germs with the naked eye, so wash your hands often. Especially important times include:

  • Before, during, and after you prepare food
  • Before you eat
  • After you use the bathroom
  • After you change a diaper
  • After handling animals or animal waste
  • When your hands are dirty
  • More frequently when someone in your home is sick

Here's How

To properly wash your hands, follow these simple steps:

  • First, wet your hands with warm water and apply liquid soap, or lather hands with a clean bar of soap.
  • Next, rub your hands together vigorously and scrub all surfaces. Also clean under your fingernails to help control germs. Keep fingernails trimmed and short.
  • Continue for at least 15 seconds or about the length of a little tune (for example: the "Happy Birthday" song). It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs.
  • Rinse your hands well and dry them.

Note: When soap is not readily available, alcohol-based hand rubs offer a quick and easy alternative. No water is needed. Just squirt some into the palm of your hand and rub your hands all over until they are dry.