Person washing hands with soap bubbles under a running faucet.

Effective hand washing: An important step in good health

Are you washing your hands enough, properly and at the right times?

Washing your hands is crucial for preventing the spread of illness, bacteria, virus and disease. Knowing the proper way to wash your hands helps everyone. A tiny number of germs on our hands can multiply millions of times overnight. Do your part to keep yourself and those around you healthy with these hand washing tips.

When to wash your hands

Everyone interacts with germs throughout the day. According to the Centers for Disease Control washing your hands at these key times helps avoid the spread of bacteria:

  • Before eating
  • Before, during and after cooking or preparing food
  • Before and after giving first aid or caring for someone who is ill
  • Before inserting contact lenses
  • After touching a pet or any animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After shaking hands with someone
  • After using the restroom or helping someone use the restroom
  • After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose
  • After touching garbage
  • After touching shared or frequently used tables, keypads, pumps, handles or devices at public places

How to wash your hands

  • Take off any jewelry before washing your hands. You can keep smooth rings on, but be sure to wash around and under them.
  • Wet your hands with lukewarm water before adding soap. The warm water helps prevent your hands from losing moisture.
  • Apply soap and start scrubbing. Don't forget the backs of your hands, in between your fingers and your cuticles. Clean your fingernails by rubbing the tips of your fingers on the opposite palm.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. To keep track of the time, try singing a few verses of "Happy Birthday to You"in your head.
  • Dry your hands completely. After drying, use a paper towel or your elbow to turn off the faucet.

Hand sanitizers

The best way to prevent germs is by washing hands but using hand sanitizer can help as well if soap and water are not readily available. Using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is recommended.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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