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5 Steps and 20 Seconds—The Best Way to Clean Your Hands

5 Steps and 20 Seconds—The Best Way to Clean Your Hands

Back to School Doesn’t Have to Mean Back to Germs

Now that the kiddoes are back at school, where germs may lurk on every door handle, water fountain, keyboard, desk and backpack, it’s time to remind your children when and how to wash their hands.

Because thorough hand-washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and prevent germs from spreading, here are a few tips for your kids—and a good reminder for you, too!

When Should We Wash Our Hands?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s important to wash your hands:

  • Before eating food
  • After using the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • Before, during, and after preparing food

And with apologies to the CDC, I might add one more:

  • When you come home from school, work or play

Hand-Washing How-Tos

The Centers for Disease Control, recommends these five steps to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

    Wet Hands

  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

    Soap Hands

  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

    Wash for 20 Seconds

  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

    Rinse Hands

  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

    Dry Hands

This quick video helps highlight the importance of following the proper hand-washing technique.

How Long Is Long Enough?

A study published in the April 2013 Journal of Environmental Health showed that 95% of people don’t spend enough time washing to kill harmful bacteria. Wow, that’s hardly anyone! So how long should we wash them?

According to the study, about 20 seconds is enough. Here’s a tip: Teach your children to hum the Happy Birthday song softly to themselves twice as they lather and scrub. Then it’s time to rinse and dry.

comment_2As we approach cold and flu season, clean-hand hygiene is especially important. Do you have a tried-and-true way to encourage proper hand-washing in your household? Please share your ideas with us—and let’s all do our best to stay healthy out there!


Have you ever hummed the Happy Birthday song to yourself when washing your hands?

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Stefanie Byron
Stefanie Byron
6 years ago

I have a home daycare, so every time we come inside we wash our hands with soap. That also applies to the kids who are getting off the bus after school. They’re all in the habit of taking off their outerwear and heading straight to the bathroom. Then of course, I ask – “Did you pet the pig?”

6 years ago
Reply to  Stefanie Byron

LOL, that’s great, Stefanie! You are helping to instill a life-long habit that will help protect our future!

Lisa Buysse
Lisa Buysse
6 years ago

I love the Norwex Peppermint hand wash as I always know when my kids have washed their hands. We’ll strive for 20 seconds now!

Jennifer Cygan
Jennifer Cygan
6 years ago

ABC song works too!

Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
6 years ago

Getting better about my family washing their hands is one of my New Years resolutions!

Lia Thompson
Lia Thompson
4 years ago

This is worrying that people need to be shown how to wash their mitts. Is this article not just really patronising!