Hand Washing: A Simple Way to Help Stop the Spread of Infections


Clean Hands Save Lives

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others whether inside or outside of the healthcare facility. It is best to wash your hands with soap and clean running warm water for 20 seconds. However, if soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs, significantly reduce the number of germs on the skin and are fast acting. They can be found at super markets, drug stores, and generally any place that sells soap.Handwashing - Photo credit: CDC

Hand Washing Steps
  • Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap (liquid or bar). Use warm water if available.
  • Rub your palms, fingers, and back of your hands to make a lather all over your hands
  • Rub your hands really well for at least 20 seconds. Sing "Happy Birthday" twice through as a timer.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean running water to remove all the lather
  • Dry your hands using paper towel or an air dryer
  • Use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door on your way out  

If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based gel to clean hands.  When using an alcohol-based  (60-95%) hand sanitizer:

  • Read and follow the instructions on the product container
  • Apply the right amount of product to the palm of one hand
  • Rub hands together to move the product over all surfaces of hands, fingers, between the fingers, fingertips, and over the back of the hands
  • Rub hands together until the hands are dry
  • Keep in mind water should not be used, and paper towels are not needed 

When should you wash your hands? 


  • making food
  • eating
  • touching your face, eyes or mouth
  • touching a sick person
  • touching a cut, sore, or wound


  • using the bathroom
  • blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • touching things that may carry germs, like:
    • diapers or a child who has used the toilet
    • food that is not cooked (raw meat, fish, etc.)
    • a sick person
    • cuts, sores, and wounds
    • animals, or animal waste
    • trash


Please click here to watch a short video (approx. 2 min. 45 sec.) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) entitled "Hands Together". This video shows why clean hands are so important in preventing illness, and proper handwashing techniques using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers. (Windows Media Player is needed to view this video. When the video stops, close the Media Player window by clicking on the "X" in the upper right corner of the video screen.)

Video demonstration on proper way to wash hands (WFSB - "Better Health")


For more facts, figures and how-to ideas on hand hygiene, please choose from the following:


CDC - "Stopping the Spread of Germs at Home, Work & School" Opens in a new window Opens in a new window

CDC - "Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings" Opens in a new window

CDC - "Clean Hands Save Lives" Opens in a new window Opens in a new window










To contact the Healthcare Associated Infections Program, please call 860-509-7995.