How to Properly Wash Your Hands


This topic might sound a little overly simple to some of you,  however, as cold and flu season quickly approaches, I thought it would  be an important one to touch on – no pun intended.

Now admittedly, before I got into this wacky cleaning gig, I really didn’t pay much attention to things like door handles, gas pumps, light  switch plates, pin pads and faucets.  However, now I’m a little older and a little wiser and I now know just how important points of contact  are.  And I find myself becoming a lot more careful about what I am  willing to touch.

The reason for this is because points of contact are the primary  transfer points for germs other nasties  which can lead to sickness.  So,  keeping your points of contact clean is really, really important.  Now, I put together a video awhile back that talked about some of the  important points of contact in our home that we need to keep clean;  however, it’s unlikely that we can clean these every day – and furthermore there are a lot of points of contact in public places that we probably won’t be able to clean at all.

So, how do you deal with germy, disgusting points of contact like pin pads and shopping cart handles and airplane bathrooms?  Well the answer lies at the end of your arms.

Keeping your hands clean might sound like something many of you already know – however I have been asked many times about the proper way to wash your hands, how often one should  wash their hands, and what’s the difference between hand soap and hand sanitizer.  Well – these are all great questions and the timing couldn’t be better.  So, here are a few answers for you.

The Proper Way to Wash Your Hands

I remember being taught the importance of hand washing when I was a little one, however, for the life of me, I can’t ever recall whether I was taught how to do it properly….to be honest, sometimes when I was told to “go and wash my hands” I would stand at the sink and wave my hands under some water for about 5 seconds – my hands got wet – but they didn’t actually get clean.

Now, I know this is the case for lots of kids out there and maybe also the case for some adults as well. So, for those of you who have wondered, here is the proper way to wash your hands.

  1. Run the water, any temperature is fine and wet both of your hands..
  2. Pump soap into one hand  – one or two pumps should suffice – more soap doesn’t nessecary mean – more clean..
  3. Rub your hands well to create a lather and  make sure you get your whole hand – including fingers, the back of your hands and even under your nails if you can.
  4. Ideally do this for 20 seconds, or sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, or one really long drawn out version.
  5. Next, Rinse your hands until you feel all soapy residue is off.
  6. Dry your hands with a hand towel or paper towel, and (if using) with the paper towel turn off the faucet.
  7. With the same paper towel, turn off the light and open the door.  Then toss the paper towel on your way out – many public washrooms leave garbage cans right by the door to allow for this.
  8. That way, you’ve maintained clean hands despite coming into contact with 3 points of contact.

It’s really important for kids to learn this habit, so, maybe you could show them this video, or better yet, show the video and then head to the bathroom to show them they way!  Have them pick a song they like and encourage them to sing the song while they hand wash, Happy Birthday, the Alphabet or anything else about 20 seconds will do.

How Often Should I Wash My Hands?

There doesn’t seem to be any firm rules as to how often one should wash their hands in an average day and that number may vary from day to day.  So, it’s best to know which activities require a good hand washing afterwards, or in some cases, like preparing food, beforehand.

So, when should you wash your hands?

  • Before, during and after food prep
  • Before eating
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating an open cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or helping a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or treats
  • After touching garbage, cleaning products or tools
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses
  • And of course, whenever they look or feel dirty.

Hand Soap Versus Hand Sanitizer

There is a big difference between hand soap and hand sanitizer.  Hand sanitizer, while tempting to use as a replacement for soap and water, should only be used if regular soap and water is not available.

Why’s that?  Well, it’s alcohol-based and can be quite drying, and there are some schools of thought which don’t like the idea of using too much hand sanitizer. Further, hand sanitizer is less-effective on visibly dirty hands and while it can eliminate many germs, it can’t eliminate as many as soap and water.  If you are using it, make sure your hands are completely dry before touching anything in order for the product to do its job.

I personally find the smell nauseating, so I seek out soap and water whenever I need to clean my hands.

Soap on the other hand is amazingly effective for cleaning all sorts of germs and other nasties off your hands, so, if soap and water is available, it’s your best bet for a truly effective hand wash. According to the Mayo Clinic, using Antibacterial hand soap is no more effective than regular soap… all soaps are composed of the same essential components — alkali salts of fatty acids and detergents. The detergent in soap, which is called a surfactant, allows oil and dirt to be washed away by water.

For added star power, try to avoid touching your face altogether during cold and flu season (e.g. if you habitually bite your nails or rub your eyes).  This really helps prevent the spread of bugs and keeps you healthy.

So, that’s how to clean your hands my friends, and with all of our concerted efforts to be better hand washers this cold and flu season, hopefully more of us can avoid getting sick!

Don’t forget to check out our blog posts on proper disinfection and cleaning points of contact!

Here’s to a healthy cold and flu season!


Here are some Amazon links to things I mentioned in this blog post:


Purell Hand Sanitizer

Tell us what YOU think!!