The Complete Guide to Washing Your Hands

If we had to pick a theme for 2020, we’d say it was the year of good hand hygiene. Washing our hands has never been more important. But when it comes down to it, do you know how to wash your hands properly? If you’re a little unsure — don’t worry you’re not alone. Today we’re going to outline everything you need to know about washing your hands — consider this your crash course in Hand Washing 101.

Why we need to frequently wash our hands

Handwashing with soap or cleanser helps to remove germs and minimises the spread of germs to other surfaces or people. If we don’t remove germs from our hands, they can be spread by:


  • Touching our eyes, nose and mouth 
  • Touching food and drinks
  • Transferring to other objects (e.g. our mobile phones, handrails, doorknobs, cash) or to other people’s hands 

In this current climate, it’s important to realise one of the most effective ways of staying healthy is to simply wash your hands.

When should we wash our hands?

Washing your hands is far more powerful to protect your health than you may think, using both a gentle cleanser and water. And it’s important you wash your hands a lot, especially:


  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before you prepare food, and before you eat
  • After you use the bathroom (or help a toddler)
  • After petting your pet
  • After you sneeze or cough 
  • After touching anything where germs may gather
  • Before and after you help someone who is sick
Is washing hands without soap effective?

To ensure that you remove all germs from your hand, you really need to use a soap or a cleanser rather than using water alone. The surfactants in soap and cleansers lift dirt and microbes from skin and people tend to scrub hands more thoroughly when lathered, which further removes germs.


How to properly wash your hands

If you want to wash your hands effectively, you can’t just “splash and dash”. Here’s a step-by-step guide to washing your hands:


  1. Remove any hand or arm jewellery and wet your hands with warm water.
  2. Add soap or cleanser and rub your hands together, lathering all surfaces for at least 20 seconds. How long are 20 seconds? The length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.
  3. Make sure you wash the front and back of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers and under your nails.
  4. Rinse your hands and wrists well under warm clean running water.
  5. Dry your hands gently with a paper towel or a clean towel.
  6. Use the paper towel to turn off the tap so that you do not re-contaminate your hands. If you’re using a public restroom, use the same paper towel to open the door when you leave

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also emphasizes the importance of handwashing and has created the following visual guide.

WHO Hand Washing Guide

If you’re finding that washing your hands is causing irritation and dryness — try using a cleanser such as the Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar. It cleanses without irritation, specially designed for dry, sensitive skin and leaves skin feeling soft, smooth and hydrated. To protect your hands even further from dryness, apply a moisturiser such as the Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion to your hands ten minutes after washing.


Read more about how to care for dry hands after washing them.


Final tip: Want something other than Happy Birthday to wash your hands to? Try the chorus from Dolly Parton’s Jolene, Lizzo’s Truth Hurts or Beyonce’s Love On Top.