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Hand Washing Steps

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Hand Washing Steps

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Washing hands following the proper steps will help prevent most infection types. Read further to learn hand washing steps and different hand hygiene methods.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Suneetha B S

Published At November 19, 2016
Reviewed AtAugust 16, 2023

What is Hand Hygiene?

Hand hygiene or otherwise called hand washing is the process of cleaning hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer to remove dirt, soil, microorganisms, and other impurities. Dirty hands are the main mode of transportation of many contagious diseases, so it is essential to maintain good hand hygiene to prevent the spread of such diseases. Washing your hands properly can even prevent the spread of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

Picture depiction of Hand Washing Steps


What are the Indications for Hand Hygiene?

It is important to wash your hand in the following situations:

  • Visibly soiled hands.
  • After reaching home from outside.
  • Before and after eating or preparing food.
  • While inserting or removing contact lenses.
  • After using the toilet.
  • After coughing or sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • After throwing garbage.

What are the Different Hand Hygiene Methods?

  1. Routine and Antiseptic Handwash - In this method, normal soap or antimicrobial agents like chlorhexidine, iodine, iodophors, chloroxylenol, and triclosan are used.
  2. Antiseptic Handrub - These are alcohol-based handwashes that can be used without water.
  3. Surgical Antisepsis - In this method, water and antimicrobial agents like chlorhexidine or water and non-antimicrobial agent followed by an alcohol-based surgical hand-scrub are used.

What are the Hand Washing Steps?

The entire process should take 40 to 60 seconds. The steps are as follows:

  • Wet your hands with water.
  • Take enough soap to cover all the surfaces of the hand.
  • Rub your palms together.
  • Place your right palm over the dorsum of your left palm with the fingers interlaced and rub them. Do the same with the left palm over the dorsum of the right palm.
  • Rub your palms together with your fingers interlaced.
  • Rub the back of your fingers to the opposite palm while keeping your fingers interlaced.
  • Clasp the opposite thumb with the other hand and rub in a rotational direction.
  • Rinse off your hands under water.
  • Dry your hands with a towel.
  • Use the towel to turn off the tap.

How to Use Antiseptic Handrub?

It takes about 20 to 30 seconds to disinfect your hand using an antiseptic hand rub. The following are the seven steps of hand washing:

  • Take a palmful of the product while keeping your hand cupped, and spread the product to cover all the surfaces.
  • Rub your palms together.
  • Place your right palm over the dorsum of your left palm with the fingers interlaced and rub them. Do the same with the left palm over the dorsum of the right palm.
  • Rub your palms together with your fingers interlaced.
  • Rub the back of your fingers to the opposite palm while keeping your fingers interlaced.
  • Clasp the opposite thumb with the other hand and rub in a rotational direction.
  • Wait till your hands are dry.

Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings

  • Before and after touching a patient.
  • Before and after a surgical procedure.
  • After touching patients surroundings.
  • After exposure to any body fluids.

Surgical Hand Washing Time and Procedure

The process of cleaning and scrubbing the hands and forearm before surgery is called surgical hand scrubbing. It reduces the incidence of operative wound infections. This takes about 2 to 6 minutes.

The steps involved are:

  • Remove rings, watches, bracelets, and bangles.
  • Debris from under the fingernails should be removed using a nail cleaner under running water.
  • The hands and forearm are then wet under running water.
  • Then the hands and forearm are scrubbed using a scrubber and antimicrobial agent.
  • Dry your hands using a sterile towel.
  • After this, sterile gloves and gowns are worn.

It is recommended to wash your hands frequently with soap and water. You need to rub your hands together with the foam for at least 20 seconds. Encourage your kids to wash their hands frequently and properly. To keep them interested, you can tell them to scrub and wash their hands until they sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. In situations where you cannot find a sink or running water, keep alcohol-based sanitizers handy. Hand sanitizers might not help if your hands are visibly soiled, but it can be used as a temporary solution. Washing your hands frequently protects you from many contagious infections, so wash your hands and stay healthy!

Frequently Asked Questions


Why is hand washing very Important?

There are millions of germs hidden in our environment. It can reach us unknowingly through our hands, nose, eyes, and mouth. It is our responsibility to remain hygienic. If we do not wash hands after coughing, sneezing, and, using restrooms, then you will be highly prone to infection.


What are the types of hand washing?

There are three types of hand washing. Firstly, the routine washing your hands with soap and water. Secondly, antiseptic hand washing, which is used for providing an aseptic (free from micro-organisms) environment. Thirdly, surgical hand washing, which is done by surgeons in hospitals before any surgical procedure.


How does hand washing work?

Germs lodge in the form of dirt, grease, and the natural oils on hands. Water alone does not dislodge them, but soap helps break down germ-carrying oils. Soap also facilitates rubbing and friction which can remove germs from the hands, and so that germs can be rinsed away with water. Using soap also adds to a more effective wash. Soap is a good surfactant. It can combine with both oil and water. This property makes them a good cleanser.


Is washing your hands a good practice?

It is recommended to wash regularly. It is wise to wash your hands before and after eating and after using restrooms. But, washing hands too many times repeatedly is an indication of psychological disturbance.


How many times do we have to wash hands in a day?

Keep a habit of washing your hands twice a day. When you return home from work, make sure you wash your hands so you do not infect people at home. Having food after washing hands will protect us from contamination of food. When you have pets at home, it is good to wash hands after playing with them. Washrooms are the source of many infections. It is recommended to wash hands after using them.


How long should you wash your hands every time?

It is beneficial if you wash your hands for 20 to 25 seconds every time. There is a standardized six-step procedure for hand washing techniques. Following it will yield better results.


Can too much hand-washing make you sick?

Yes, it can sometimes make you obsessively think about too much cleanliness. It can lead to a disorder called OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).


How do you wash your child's hands?

It is healthier if parents accompany their kids while they wash their hands, at least in the initial stages, until they learn to wash themselves. Parents should educate the children about the importance of washing hands and the proper procedure to do it.


When should children wash their hands?

At least in the budding stages, until they learn to wash themselves, it is highly advisable for parents to be near the kids when they wash the hands. Whenever visible dirt is present in the child’s hand, maybe after playing in the ground, or with pets, they should wash their hands.
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Dr. Suneetha B S
Dr. Suneetha B S



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