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2 min read

Hand washing is a fundamental and highly effective hygiene measure that has been advised during countless past disease outbreaks. The truth is that many people still don’t wash their hands often enough or well enough to protect themselves or others from infections, including COVID-19.

And now that we have been living through this pandemic for over a year, it’s natural to be more lax about our frequent and thorough hand-washing habits from the early days of coronavirus. But we must maintain good hand hygiene, especially as more places “reopen” and we become more exposed to germs outside of our homes.

If you have an underlying health issue or chronic illness that increases your risk for coronavirus complications, share this with your loved ones to make sure they are taking steps to help keep themselves — and you — safe.


When to Wash Your Hands

This is when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you should wash your hands because they are vital times when you’re likely to get and spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

During the coronavirus outbreak, it is good to wash your hands each time you enter a new place and after being in a public place.

How to Wash Your Hands

These are the main steps to follow, according to the CDC. Although this may sound simple, if you’ve ever seen a 7-year-old wash their hands before dinner, you know they don’t follow all of them. And one study in which researchers secretly observed thousands of people while they washed their hands found that only 5% followed all the rules.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running warm water, turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You can hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

When you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, the CDC suggests using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol. Yes, these are hard or impossible to come by right now. That’s one reason why hand washing is better. Others, including sanitizers, do not get rid of all types of germs, and hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.