Washing your hands is easy, and it is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to hospitals, gyms and healthcare facilities.
How do germs spread?
Germs can spread from other people or surfaces when you:
Touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
Prepare or eat food and drinks with unwashed hands
Touch a contaminated surface or objects
Blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into hands and then touch other people’s hands or common objects
Why should I wash my hands?
Handwashing with soap and clean, running water removes germs from hands. This helps prevent infections because:
People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realising it. Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth and make us sick.
Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. Germs can multiply in some types of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick.
Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, table tops, or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.
Removing germs through handwashing therefore helps prevent diarrheal and respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections.
When should I wash my hands?
You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:
Before, during, and after preparing food
Before eating food
Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
Before and after treating a cut or wound
After using the toilet
After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
After handling pet food or pet treats
After touching garbage
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, you should also wash your hands:
After you have been in a public place and touched an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens, etc.
Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
How do I wash my hands the right way?
Follow these five steps every time.
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
What if soap and clean water are not readily available?
You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Look at the product label to find out if the sanitiser contains at least 60% alcohol.
How do I use a hand sanitiser the right way?
Follow these 3 steps every time:
Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
Rub your hands together.
Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
However, with hand sanitisers, is important to remember that:
They do not get rid of all types of germs.
They may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
They might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.