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How to Properly Wash your Hands and Why

How to Properly Wash your Hands and Why

Last year our family was sick a lot during the flu season – I’m sure it was directly related to it being our kids first year of school and them not washing their hands as often as they should. Here we are, another year later and getting ready to enter another flu season with kids at school. This got me thinking about how we as a family can better avoid the sickness. This year we have been teaching our kids how to wash their hands and the importance of washing their hands PROPERLY! Washing your hands with soap and water is the best thing you can do to prevent germs, whether it’s the flu, cold or other germs that get you and your family sick.

To properly wash your hands and eliminate as many germs as possible, kids and adults should wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with running water and antibacterial soap and following the steps below:

1- Get hands wet with clean running water (The temperature is not important, no need to burn yourself trying to kill the germs)

2- Add antibacterial soap to hands and lather together

3- Scrub hands thoroughly. The front and back of hands, fingers and finger nails for at least 20 seconds

4- Rinse with clean running water

5- Dry hands with a clean hand towel or air dry (do not wipe your hands dry on your cloths)

By following these steps, you and your family will be able to stay healthier this flu season.

How Often Should You Wash your Hands?

According to the CDC, everyone should wash their hands multiple times a day. Your hands are always touching objects that are infected and could get you sick. I can remember growing up we always had to wash our hands before dinner but now we are told to wash your hands more often.

Here is what the CDC had to say about when to wash our hands.

  • Before, During and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • Before caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing a diaper or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or pet
  • After touching or handling pet food
  • After touching garbage

When in doubt, wash your hands!

The reason why we need to wash our hands this often is because the longer the germs are on our hands, the more likely we are to infect ourselves with the germs by touching our face, eyes or mouth where the germs can then infect us and get us sick.

Is 20 seconds really necessary?

Yes, 20 seconds is really necessary to remove the dirt, bacteria and other germs from your hands. Remember, it’s all about the numbers of germs and bacteria. The longer you scrub your  hands with soap and water the more germs will be removed. Washing your hands is a simple tasks that most people don’t do or take seriously.  The reason for this is because 20 seconds of washing your hands with soap is the amount of time it takes for the soap to remove all of the germs. Less than the recommended 20 seconds will not adequately clean them.

You don’t have to worry about washing your hands for too long, but you do have to worry about not washing them long enough. 

Soap and Water vs Hand sanitizer

The best way to ensure that your hands are germ free is to wash them often and with antibacterial soap and running water. The soap, when applied and used to wash properly, will remove the germs that have collected in the creases/lines of your hands over the course of the day.

If no soap is available, then you should use hand sanitizer to kill as many germs as possible. This is not the preferred method but is better than nothing at all. If you do use hand sanitizer, be sure to follow the steps below.

1- Add proper amount of sanitizer to your hands (read instructions on bottle)

2- Scrub hands thoroughly. Scrub the front and back of hands, fingers and fingernails for at least 20 seconds or until hands are dry.

Note: Do not wipe hands on your pants or shirt to dry off.

By following these steps, you and your family will be able to stay healthier this flu season.

What’s on Your Hands?

It’s not just dirt and simple little germs that are on your hands and the objects that you touch throughout the day, it’s much more than that. Your hands are picking up all kinds of viruses and bacteria that can get you extremely sick if they enter your body when you touch your eyes or mouth. Among the more common germs, viruses and bacteria that are found on your hands are: Rhinovirus, Influenza, Norovirus.

The Rhinovirus is also known as the Common Cold. It is the most common germ to be found on your hands and is the most common of the three to get you sick. Symptoms include: nasal dryness or irritation, sore throat, nasal congestion or discharge, facial pressure, ear pressure or headaches.

The Influenza virus or Flu, is a nasty bug to get. Thousands of people die every year from the flu. Most, but not all, are older individuals whose immune system is not as strong and healthy as younger people. Symptoms include: fever, chills, muscles or joint aches, cough, fatigue, sore throat and most people tend to throw up and can’t keep food down.

The Norovirus is also known as the Stomach Bug. It is another nasty bug you don’t want to get. It is  highly contagious and can affect anyone. If you get infected with the Norovirus expect to spend a lot of time in front of the toilet with diarrhea and throwing up. Other symptoms may include nausea, abdominal pain, mild fever and muscle pain.

After reading about the germs that are on your hands and what they can do to you if they are able to get into your system I’m sure you will want to wash your hands at least a little more thoroughly and a little more often.

Teaching your kids properly

Have you ever noticed when kids wash their hands, the whole process takes roughly 5 seconds? Unbelievably, this is how long most adults tend to wash their hands too! If you have kids, you’ll want to teach them the proper ways to wash their hands to stay healthy!

 Twenty seconds is a long time for kids to stand at the sink and scrub their hands with soap. After all, they have things to do, places to go and adventures to go on! Here are some things that my wife and I do to teach and encourage our kids to properly wash their hands and to do it often!

Songs /ABC’s: Teach your kids to sing the ABC’s when they are washing their hands so that they can truly wash them for the recommended 20 seconds and remove all the germs. This will not only help them wash for 20 seconds but also help them learn their ABC’s better!

Good Guys vs Bad Guys
: Explaining to your kids that there is this tiny tiny tiny little germ, that they can’t feel or see is hard. Try explaining to them that there are good guys and bad guys in our bodies. We need to eat, sleep and be healthy to help the good guys. If we don’t wash our hands then the consequences are that more bad guys will get into our bodies and could get us sick!

Help them understand that there are good forces within their bodies that are trying to keep them from getting sick and that they can help them fight the bad guys! This lesson has actually worked the best with our kids (ages 3 and 5). They really liked learning about germs from kid videos on YouTube. (We especially like using this technique at night to help get them to bed at night. We tell them that the good guys need to sleep too so that they can protect their bodies during the day.)

Routine: Just like brushing their teeth, designating a certain time for them to wash their hands will naturally help them get into the habit of washing their hands. Those times could be every time you get home whether it’s from a busy store (we touch so many common places at public restaurants and stores) or home from school, before and after dinner, after playing outside or at a set time during the day.


Being sick is not fun, especially when it runs through the whole family over the course of a month! Avoid the flu and other germs by washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and follow the proper steps to ensure you rid your hands of those nasty germs before they attack your immune system.