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How and When to Wash Your Hands

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, handwashing is a crucial part of warding off infections and slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

The coronavirus can infect you if you have touched your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching an infected person’s bodily secretions or a contaminated surface.

Despite the importance of handwashing, a study has shown that people do not wash their hands correctly 97% of the time. 

To help you protect yourself against the coronavirus, here is a step-by-step guide proposed by the WHO on how to wash your hands. 

How to wash your hands

  1. Rinse hands under running water

 Make sure that the water source is clean. Running water should be used instead of standing water since standing water might’ve already been contaminated.

  1. Apply enough soap to cover both hands

When you rub out the soap, there should be enough to cover both of your hands. Antibacterial soap is not recommended for the general public. Normal soap works just as well at removing dirt and germs from the skin. 

Normal soap combined with friction will make your hands so slippery that germs will slide off your hands when you rinse them underwater. So if your techniques are correct, your hands will be germ-free whether or not you use anti-bacterial soap.

  1. Rub your palms together 

Put palms flat against each other and rub vigorously

  1. Rub the palms together with fingers interlaced

This motion cleans the sides of your fingers. Be sure to get the nooks between your fingers as well.

  1. Put the palm of your right hand over the back of your left hand. Interlace the fingers and rub vigorously; repeat vice versa 

Be sure to get both the entire back of your hands and between your fingers in this move. 

  1. Put your hand in the recitation pose, and rotate both your wrists to rub the back of your fingers

Put one palm over the other palm with each palm pointing in the opposite direction. Hook the fingers together so your hand is in the classic recitation pose. Rotate the wrist of your hands to clean the back of your fingers.

  1. Make a fist with your right hand around your left hand’s thumb. Rotate your right hand from the wrist; repeat vice versa

This move helps get the nook between the thumb and the index finger, as well as some places you might have missed in the palms. If you want to, you can repeat the motion for each finger. 

  1. Put all of your right hand’s fingers together and place them onto the palm of our left hand. Rub in a circle; repeat vice versa

This move helps you clean the tips of your fingers and under the nails. If you have very long fingernails, this move may not work very well for you. Instead, rub the tip of your finger one by one, and make sure to get where the finger pad connects to the nail. Rub under the length of your nails individually.  If you have long nails, it might be more hygienic to cut your nails or remove your fake nails. 

  1. Rinse your hands under running water to remove all soap
  2. Use a clean paper towel, cloth, or air dryer to thoroughly dry your hands

Germs are more likely to attach to wet hands than dry hands, therefore it’s a good idea to dry your hands immediately. Some sources have recommended turning off the faucet with paper towels to avoid contaminating your just-washed hands, but few data has shown that this practice increases health. 

Rub your hands for at least 20 seconds 

According to the CDC, no less than 20 seconds should be dedicated to the active rubbing of the hands. As a frame of reference, sing “Happy Birthday” twice when you’re rubbing your hands. 

How to wash your hands with hand sanitizer

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First, choose a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. And then, cover both of your hands (front and back) with an ample amount, make sure to cover the nooks of your hands, between your fingers and underneath your nail. Once there is sanitizer all over your hands, rest your hands until dry. 

Use hand sanitizer only when soap and water are not available since sanitizer is lacking in a few respects

  1. It cannot remove harmful chemicals
  2. Its effectiveness is reduced by the dirt and grease on your hands
  3. It does not eliminate all types of germs

Do not swallow hand sanitizer as this will cause alcohol poisoning. 

When to wash your hands

According to the CDC, theses are key times for hand-washing:


  • Eating 

Before and after:

  • Preparing food 
  • Treating a wound
  • Caring for someone who is sick


  • Using the toilet
  • Blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • Petting animals and handling animal food or waste
  • Touching garbage

These are just some of the examples. Wash your hands whenever common sense tells you that you should. More handwashing is better than less in the time of the pandemic. 

Hand-washing is just one part of the equation when it comes to avoiding the coronavirus, social-distancing and mask-wearing are equally important. 

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