Handwashing and COVID-19

Handwashing and COVID-19

Hands are the most common ways in which microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses can be transported and subsequently cause infection, especially to those who are most susceptible to infection. Washing your hands properly and frequently is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Proper Handwashing Techniques

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you’ve been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. When washing your hands, follow these five steps every time:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (hot or cold) and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry them.

If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hand and rub them together until they feel dry. This should take at least 20 seconds.

Note: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

What’s Social Handwashing?

Social hand washing, or routine hand washing, is the frequent, proper washing of hands to promote health and prevent the spread of dangerous microorganisms or viruses. Cleaning your hands every chance you get is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease.

Handwashing Do’s and Dont’s

In addition to the proper hand washing techniques described above, these are things you should always do when washing your hands:

  • Avoid wearing rings other than a plain band.
  • Push your wristwatch up to your middle forearm or remove it.
  • Keep your hands and clothing away from the sink surface.
  • Use warm or cold water.
  • Keep your hands and forearms lower than your elbows to keep water flowing from the most to least contaminated area.
  • Use a lot of soap lather and friction when washing your hands.
  • Dry your hands with clean cloth or paper towels.

Don’t do the following when washing your hands:

  • Don’t touch the sink, it’s contaminated. If you touch the sink or tap at any time, start over.
  • Don’t use hot water because it opens pores and removes skin oils.
  • Don’t splash water on your clothes. The rinse water from your hands could contain bacteria that could contaminate your hands again if touched on your clothing.

Handwashing vs. Hand Sanitizer

There are important differences between washing hands with soap and water and cleaning them with hand sanitizer. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t kill all types of germs, including norovirus and some parasites that affect the stomach, but they’re better than nothing if soap and water aren’t readily available.

Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to properly clean your hands and protect yourself from the virus that causes COVID-19. If soap and water aren’t an option, then use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

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Sources:
CDC
WHO (World Health Organization)
Arrow Scientific

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