Hand Washing

During regular daily activities, hands come in contact with hundreds of surfaces – from opening doors to cooking food, from money exchanges to shaking hands. On each surface live thousands of microscopic organisms, some of which can cause serious illness. Regular hand washing is the most important step to avoid contracting illness or spreading it to others. Scientific research shows that hand washing with soap can significantly reduce the risk of diarrhea and respiratory infection. It is the simplest and most cost-effective way to prevent disease. Particularly in institutional care settings, hand washing is critical to the health of children in care.

Proper hand washing involves 5 main steps:

  • Wet

    Wet hands thoroughly with clean water.
  • Soap

    Use a bar of soap or apply liquid soap to the palm of the hands.
  • Lather

    Using the soap, rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds so the soap produces a thick lather. Scrub between the fingers and under the fingernails.
  • Rinse

    Rinse hands of the soap lather thoroughly with clean water.
  • Dry

    Dry hands with a clean paper or cloth towel, or let them air dry.

If soap and clean water aren’t available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used instead. The hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol. NOTE: Hand sanitizer is not recommended as an alternative to hand washing during food handling.

There are 2 main steps for using hand sanitizer:

  • Apply
    Apply an adequate amount of hand sanitizer to the palm of the hands.
  • Rub
    Rub hand sanitizer over all surfaces of the hands, including the backs of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails. Rub until hands are dry.

Caregivers in institutional settings should wash their hands:

  • Before and during food preparation
  • Before and after preparing infant formula
  • Before and after feeding a child
  • Before and after eating
  • Before and after changing a diaper
  • After using the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing the nose
  • After caring for a sick child
  • After handling garbage
  • After touching cleaners and toxic chemicals
  • After touching livestock or pets