Why Proper Hand Washing Matters & How to Practice It

Proper hand washing is an act many of us take for granted. As kids, we were taught to wash our hands after going to the bathroom, before eating dinner, etc. But it’s easy to get lazy in this area and forget why good hand hygiene is so important.

Let’s look at why proper hand washing really matters and how to make sure you do it correctly.

How Proper Hand Washing Keeps Us Safe

Due to the rise of antibiotic resistance and “superbugs,” germs are becoming more difficult to fight. But when you wash your hands, it can prevent the transmissions of these germs to others and reduce the number of infections.

According to the American Journal of Infection Control, healthcare professionals wash their hands less than 50% of the times they should—which increases the spread of viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. And if healthcare providers are failing to wash their hands enough, just think of how much everyday people are dropping the ball!

This is a problem because we use our hands to touch surfaces, food and other people every day. As a result, many conditions, ranging from minor to severe, are spread through contact because of improper hand washing.

Basically, hand washing is such a simple act, but it’s one of the most crucial ways to prevent infections!

When and How to Practice Good Hand Hygiene

Here’s what you need to know to ensure you and your family follow proper hand washing practices (according to CDC hand washing guidelines).

  1. Wet your hands under warm or cold clean, running water. (And remember to conserve water by turn off the tap as you add soap!)
  2. Lather on soap by rubbing it between your hands. Rub the soap all over your hands—on your palms, back of the hands, and in between fingers and under nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. (That’s about the length of singing “happy birthday” twice.)
  4. Rinse your hands by turning the water back on and washing the soap away.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel or by letting them air dry.

How long should you wash your hands, in total? Each hand washing session should last at least 50-60 seconds.


Washing your hands is important many times throughout the day, including:

  • Before eating food and before, during and after preparing food
  • After using the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick or cleaning up a child
  • After touching trash or garbage
  • Before and after treating/touching any cuts or wounds
  • After touching an animal or handling pet food or treats

If for any reason you don’t have access to clean running water, use whatever soap and water is available. If there is no soap and/or water available at the moment, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol until you can get to a place to properly wash your hands.

The Bottom Line

Don’t take hand washing for granted. Along with eating healthy, getting enough exercise, managing stress and taking nutritional supplements, proper hand washing is one of the best ways to be well and help prevent sickness for you and your loved ones this year. Follow the guidelines above and stay healthy this season!

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