DPH: Hand Washing: A Simple Way to Help Stop the Spread of Infections

Hand Washing: A Simple Way to Help Stop the Spread of Infections


{HAI Elimination}

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others whether inside or outside of the healthcare facility. It is best to wash your hands with soap and clean running warm water for 20 seconds. However, if soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs, significantly reduce the number of germs on the skin and are fast acting. They can be found at super markets, drug stores, and generally anyplace that sells soap.

{Handwashing - Photo credit: CDC}

Clean Hands Save Lives


When washing hands with soap and water:
  • Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap (liquid or bar). Use warm water if it is available.
  • Rub hands together to make lather, and move the lather all over your hands. Rub it into your palms, over your fingertips, in between your fingers, and over the back of your hands. 
  • Rub your hands really well for at least 20 seconds.  Need a timer? Imagine singing “Happy Birthday” twice through to a friend!
  • Rinse hands well under running warm water, and remove all the lather.
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet, and open any doors on you way out of the room.
Hand Washing Steps
{Hand Washing Steps}

If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based gel to clean hands. 

When using an alcohol-based  (60-95%) hand sanitizer:
  • Read and follow the instructions on the product container
  • Apply the right amount of product to the palm of one hand
  • Rub hands together to move the product over all surfaces of hands, fingers, between the fingers, fingertips, and over the back of the hands
  • Rub hands together until the hands are dry
  • Keep in mind water should not be used, and paper towels are not needed

When should you wash your hands?



{Washing hands with soap and water. Illustration credit - CDC}


          • making food
          • eating
          • touching or touching a sick person
          • touching a cut, sore, or wound
{Washing hands with hand sanitizer. Illustration credit - CDC}
          • using the bathroom
          • blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
          • touching things that may carry germs, like
            • diapers or a child who has used the toilet
            • food that is not cooked (raw meat, fish, etc.)
            • a sick person
            • cuts, sores, and wounds
            • animals, or animal waste
            • trash

Please click here to watch a short video (approx. 2 min. 45 sec.) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) entitled "Hands Together". This video shows why clean hands are so important in preventing illness, and proper handwashing techniques using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers. (Windows Media Player is needed to view this video. When the video stops, close the Media Player window by clicking on the "X" in the upper right corner of the video screen.)

Video demonstration on proper way to wash hands (Wfsb - "Better Health")


For more facts, figures and how-to ideas on hand hygiene, please choose from the following:


CDC - “An Ounce of Prevention: Keeps the Germs Away"

CDC - "Stopping the Spread of Germs at Home, Work & School"

CDC - "Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings"

CDC - "Clean Hands Save Lives"

To contact the Healthcare Associated Infections Program, please call 860-509-7995.


Content Last Modified on 7/13/2016 8:22:47 AM