Reducing the Spread of Infection: Hand Washing

Why Wash?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infection.” Washing hands correctly reduces the chances of spreading germs.

When Should I Wash?

Hands should be washed whenever they become contaminated.

Wash hands after:

  • Coughing or sneezing (Use a clean tissue or clothing sleeve to cough or sneeze into. Do not cough or sneeze into hands.)
  • Touching contaminated surfaces
  • Using the restroom
  • Changing diapers
  • Handling garbage
  • Handling uncooked foods such as meat
  • Touching animals and pets
  • Caring for a sick person

Wash hands before:

  • Preparing or eating food
  • Treating a wound or taking care of someone ill

What is the "T ZONE"?

The “T Zone” refers to the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth. By touching these areas with a contaminated finger, disease is able to enter the body. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with fingers.

the T zone

How Do I Wash My Hands?

  • rinse hands

    Wet your hands with warm, running water.

  • rinse hands

    Add soap and rub your hands together to make a soapy lather. Do this away from the running water so soap is not washed away. Wash the front and backs of hands, between fingers, nails, and wrists. Scrub for 15 to 20 seconds. Try singing the ABC song twice while washing.

  • rinse hands

    Rinse hands under warm running water. Turn faucet off with a clean paper towel. (Remember the faucet was turned on with dirty hands.)

  • rinse hands

    Dry hands thoroughly with a clean paper towel.

  • rinse hands

    When leaving a bathroom with a closed door, use a paper towel to open the door. Then throw away the paper towel.

  • What if Soap and Water Are Not Available?

    If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product to clean hands. Alcohol- based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast acting.

    When using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, apply product to palm of one hand and rub hands together, covering all surfaces of hands and fingers, until hands are dry. Alcohol-based hand wipes can also be used.

    Written by: Darlene Christensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent