An idiot’s guide to washing your hands properly

Hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections, but 60% of men and 40% of women do not wash their hands after visiting the toilet.

You don’t need to scrub up like a surgeon, but here are some basic techniques to ensure an effective hand wash.

How to wash your hands

Firstly, whenever possible, always use warm water and soap when washing your hands as this helps to remove germs lodged in the natural oils of your hands.

Then, for a minimum of 20 seconds, follow the 11 steps outlined below (as recommended by the World Health Organisation), to ensure a thorough and effective hand washing experience.

Step 1: Before washing your hands, wet your hands with warm water.

Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover all surfaces of your hands before you start to wash them.

Step 3: Rub your hands together palm to palm making a circular motion.

Step 4: Place your right hand on top of your left hand and interlace your fingers. Repeat this but vice versa.

Step 5: Next, interlock your fingers palm to palm.

Step 6: Place the backs of your fingers to the palm of your opposite hand; fingers interlocked.

Step 7: Rotational rubbing by clasping your left thumb in the palm of your right hand and vice versa.

Step 8: Clasp your fingers and rotationally rub the palm of the opposite hand.

Step 9: Rinse hands with warm water.

Step 10: Thoroughly dry your hands using a single use towel.

Step 11: Turn the tap off using your paper towel to cover your hands.

When should you wash your hands?

You should ensure that you always wash your hands:

  • Before eating or handling food;
  • After using the toilet;
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
  • After touching animals or animal waste;
  • After handling rubbish;
  • After changing a nappy;
  • Before and after touching a sick or injured person;
  • Before and after visiting a hospital ward (remember alcohol-based hand rubs are also provided).

Drying your hands

Drying your hands fully is just as important as washing them properly. This is because 85 % of micro-organisms are transmitted by moist hands, whereas for dry hands this is reduced to only 0.06%. Wet hands will pick up contaminants easily and can develop skin irritation.

Opinions differ on whether hand dryers or paper towels are the most effective hand drying technique; however, paper towels increasingly are seen as the most hygienic way to dry your hands.