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What's the proper technique for washing my hands?

The proper technique for washing your hands is as follows:

  • First, wet your hands with water.
  • Next, cover your hands in soap.
  • Spread the soap. Start by rubbing your hands together palm to palm. Do the same with left palm on top of right hand.
  • Rub your hands palm to palm with your fingers laced together.
  • Get the back of your fingers by rubbing them palm to palm with your fingers curled in.
  • Clasp your left thumb with your right palm and rotate your thumb. Then switch.
  • Rub your right palm in a circle around your left thumb, and vice versa.
  • Clasp the fingers of your right hand into your left palm and rub backwards and forwards. Do this with both hands.
  • Finally, rinse with water.
  • Dry thoroughly with a paper towel.
  • Use the paper towel to turn off the faucet.
Deborah Beauvais
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Proper hand washing may eliminate nearly half of all cases of foodborne illness and significantly reduce the spread of the common cold and flu.

When you wash your hands:

  • Hands should be washed in warm, soapy water before preparing foods and after handling raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Always wash your hands front and back up to your wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.
  • Never forget to wash your hands after switching tasks, such as handling raw meat and then cutting vegetables.
  • Dry hands with disposable paper towels, clean cloth towels or air dry.
  • Sing two choruses of "Happy Birthday" while you lather up, cleaning your hands for 20 seconds.
Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist
According to the CDC, washing your hands correctly means wetting them under cleaning running water, adding soap, rubbing your hands together to make lather, scrubbing, rinsing, and then air drying your hands or drying them with a clean towel.  This whole procedure should take at least 20 seconds.  How long is 20 seconds?   Silently sing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself, twice, and you will have nailed it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.