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How to Wash your Hands Properly


Updated December 11, 2009

An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be a good substitute for soap and water.

An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be a good substitute for soap and water if you need to wash your child's hands.

Photo by Michael Krinke

We often send our kids to wash their hands, but are you sure they are doing a good job when you do?

Proper hand washing is an important way to stay healthy year-round, helping your kids avoid cold and flu viruses, bacteria that can cause food poisoning and other infections, and germs they can get from their pets or other sick kids. Review these hand washing steps with your kids to make sure they know how to wash their hands correctly:

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Less than a minute

Here's How:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, preferably warm, running water.
  2. Apply soap to your wet hands.
  3. Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, making sure to scrub all of the surfaces of your hand, including between your fingers, the back of your hands, wrists, and under your fingernails too.
  4. Rinse your hands well under running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel, an air dryer, or disposable paper towel.
  6. Turn off the water faucet with your disposable towel so that you don't get them dirty again.


  1. When you wash your hands with soap and water, be sure to continue washing for at least 20 seconds, which is about the time it takes to sing 'Happy Birthday' twice. One of the biggest mistakes kids make when washing their hands is that they don't do it long enough, which can leave a lot of germs on their hands that can make them sick.
  2. Although you should encourage your kids to wash their hands whenever their hands are obviously dirty, proper hand washing is also important before they eat, after they go to the bath room, after touching a pet, after they cough or sneeze into their hands, and after they have contact with someone who is sick.
  3. It is also important to wash your hands before cooking or feeding your kids, after changing a baby's diaper, and preparing raw food, etc.
  4. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands if you don't have soap and water, being sure to rub the sanitizer well over all surfaces of your hands.
  5. Because of their high alcohol content, supervise young children who use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, so that they don't accidentally ingest it.

What You Need

  • Soap, which can be a liquid or bar soap, but doesn't have to be anti-bacterial
  • Clean, preferably warm, running water
  • An alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you don't have soap and water
Related Video
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