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Importance of Hand Washing

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Importance of Hand Washing

5 min read


The process of cleansing the hands with soap or hand wash and water to get rid of undesired and hazardous materials like oil, filth, and viruses.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At August 16, 2019
Reviewed AtDecember 13, 2023


Hygiene is a string of behaviors performed to maintain general health and prevent the transmission of diseases from one person to another. Practicing good hygiene improves overall health and quality of life. Many practices come under good hygiene maintenance, including regular hand washing. Unfortunately, many people need to be made aware of the significance of hand washing. Let us learn how handwashing facts can protect one and all.

How Do Germs Spread?

It is essential to know how germs spread, as this signifies the importance and facts of handwashing. Germs are tiny living organisms that can cause diseases.

Germs can spread in many ways, including:

  • Through contaminated water and food.

  • Touching dirty hands.

  • Changing dirty diapers.

  • After using the toilet.

  • After blowing out the nose.

  • After touching an animal or animal waste.

  • After handling pet food or treats.

  • After touching garbage.

  • After coming home from outside.

  • Through air droplets released during a cough or sneeze.

  • Through close contact with a sick person's body fluids.

  • Touching anything that is contaminated.

  • Touching face, mouth, or nose with unclean hands.

  • Cooking or eating food items without washing hands.

It is evident that proper handwashing effectively kills germs and ends their spread.

What Are the Important Facts of Handwashing?

Regular hand washing is one of the effective ways to combat germs, avoid getting sick, and stop the spread of germs to others. The habit of hand washing should be taught right from childhood itself. There are a large number of highly infectious diseases that can pass from one to another. According to several research studies, appropriately washing hands can prevent respiratory infections (such as influenza, colds, and the novel coronavirus infection) and gastrointestinal diseases (such as salmonellosis). Unfortunately, many individuals wash their hands with water alone and not with soap, which is still unsafe for a person's health. Washing hands with antibacterial soap and water or using hand sanitizers is substantially more effective in killing the germs that may transmit infections from one person to another.

Which Method Helps Prevent Communicable Diseases?

Acquire these healthful behaviors to guard against illness and stop the spread of pathogens and infectious diseases.

  1. Safely Handle & Prepare Food: Microbes can be present in food. When preparing any food, especially raw meat, wash the hands, utensils, and surfaces frequently. Fruits and vegetables should always be washed. Cook meals and maintain the right temperature. Do not let food go bad; refrigerate it right away.

  2. Hands should be washed frequently.

  3. Scrub and Sterilize Frequently Used Surfaces: Surfaces are home to germs. Usually, a simple soap and water cleaning is sufficient. Routinely clean the kitchen and bathroom. If someone in the house is sick, disinfect other locations. Clean by using rubbing alcohol, bleach solution, or an EPA-certified disinfectant (check the label for the EPA registration number).

  4. Sneeze and Cough into the Sleeves.

  5. Do Not Share Personal Goods: Steer clear of exchanging towels between washes and personal goods that can not be cleaned, such as razors and toothbrushes. Needles should never be shared and should only be disposed of properly after usage.

  6. Vaccination: Vaccines can stop a lot of infectious diseases. Adults and children can receive vaccinations that are intended to protect them from a variety of infectious diseases. Additionally, some vaccinations are necessary or advised for travel to specific regions of the world.

  7. Refrain from Touching Wild Animals: Be wary of wild animals because they can infect the owner and the pets with contagious diseases.

  8. When ill, remain at home.

How to Wash Hands Properly?

Now that we know the importance of handwashing, it is equally crucial to know the correct technique. Certain handwashing steps can provide maximum protection from possible infections. The following steps should be followed while washing hands with soap:

  • Step 1: First, wet the hands with clean running water and apply an antibacterial soap or washing gel.

  • Step 2: Lather soap well for about 20 seconds, spreading it to the palms, between fingers, and back of hands.

  • Step 3: Rub and scrub well between the fingers with soap.

  • Step 4: Rub the back of the hands with soap.

  • Step 5: Rub the fingers backward nicely with soap.

  • Step 6: Rub the thumb well with soap.

  • Step 7: Clean the nails thoroughly with soap rubbing them to the palms.

  • Step 8: Rub and clean the wrist, both front and backward, with soap.

  • Step 9: Rinse hands with running water.

  • Step 10: Dry hands thoroughly with a clean hand towel or paper towel. Air drying is also acceptable.

What Are the Important Facts of Handwashing With Sanitizers?

Hand sanitizers are more convenient for keeping the hands germ-free. In addition, they do not require soap and water. Therefore, there is no need to wash hands after applying hand sanitizers. However, it is important to remember that hand sanitizer is not a substitute for handwashing with water and soap, as hand washing is more effective than sanitizers. However, hand sanitizers are handy for frequently cleaning the hands, which can kill germs. When buying hand sanitizers, choose alcohol-based products as they are more effective in fighting germs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Every year, global handwashing day is observed worldwide on October 15 to spread hand-washing awareness. This shows the scale of handwashing importance.

What Is the Difference Between Hand Sanitizer & Washing Hands?

Hand sanitizers with alcohol base function by eradicating bacteria from hands, whereas hand washing with soap and water eliminates germs from hands. Hand sanitizers cannot eradicate all germs or dangerous substances like pesticides and heavy metals from hands; only hand washing can eradicate all types of germs from hands. Although hand washing is an excellent way to remove all dirt, microorganisms, and chemicals from hands, hand sanitizer is more targeted at killing bacteria and most viruses. Every component of handwashing is essential, the entire handwashing process should take soap to emulsify dirt, chemicals, and germs; friction to remove debris; and running water to remove the debris.

What Are the Different Ways to Teach Children to Wash Their Hands?

Teaching children hand washing since childhood is an excellent way to encourage lifelong habits. Children can be taught the importance of hand washing through audio-visuals, which teaches them the benefits of handwashing. Ask the child to sing a song or practice counting while they wash their hands to ensure they do not rush. Parents can also reward kids every time they wash their hands successfully. Using soaps depicting cartoon characters or figures can encourage them to hand wash. Children are silent and keen observers of their parents. They treat them as their role models. Hence, remember to practice proper hand washing first, as it is rightly said, "practice before preaching."

Are There Any Downsides to Handwashing?

Handwashing is a part of hand hygiene. Taking care of the skin is also important, as the skin is the most effective barrier against infection. Washing hands often with soap and water may result in dry, cracked skin. This may be uncomfortable and increase the threat of skin infection. After entire handwashing process, the following skin care tips may benefit:

  • Dry hands with a clean towel.

  • Apply a moisturizing hand cream at least three to four times a day or more often if the hands are constantly in water to lubricate the skin, lock in moisture, and prevent further drying.

  • Wear protective gloves when gardening to protect the hands against cuts, insect bites, or ingrained soil.

  • Use heavy-duty dishwashing gloves when washing dishes to protect hands.

  • Consult a doctor if skin irritation develops or continues.


With the entire handwashing process, one can prevent the occurrence of many diseases. Moreover, it can become a habit more than a practice if it is imparted since childhood. So it is better to appreciate the power of hand washing. Just 20 to 30 seconds of hand washing practice can save one’s trips to the doctor's office. Because kids watch and learn from their parents, ensure to model good hand hygiene to keep the family healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Most Important Aspect of Hand Washing?

Friction is considered the most important aspect of hand washing. Efficient scrubbing creates friction motion that helps remove dirt and other microorganisms from the skin surface.


What Are the Five Reasons to Wash Your Hands?

Practicing proper hand hygiene by washing them thoroughly is crucial to keep oneself healthy. Five reasons to practice regular hand washing are:
- To prevent the spread of germs to others.
- To prevent diarrhea and other bacterial diseases.
- To keep oneself healthy and prevent any illness.
- To promote social etiquette and grooming.
- To handle food safely.


What Are the Types of Hand Washing?

There are three main types of hand-washing techniques. They are:
- Social Hand Washing: This hand washing is usually done using soap and water. It helps clean the dirt and transient microorganisms on the skin. Social hand washing is usually done before eating, playing, using the washroom, and interacting with others.
- Antiseptic Hand Washing: It is more stringent than social hand washing. Antiseptic hand washing is generally preferred in a medical or healthcare facility. Antiseptic agents such as chlorhexidine and iodine are also used with hot water. This type of hand washing is effective in destroying the resident as well as the transient microorganisms.
- Surgical Hand Washing: This hand washing is used before sterile procedures such as surgery or invasive diagnostic procedures. The hands are scrubbed up to the elbow using an antiseptic detergent. Zero physical contact is ensured while and after hand washing. Sterile gloves are immediately donned after hand washing to prevent any contamination.


What Is a Medical Hand Wash?

Medical hand washing involves using copious amounts of soap and water and rubbing both hands together. Ensure to wash the front and back of the hand and between the fingers. Debris under the nails could be removed using a bristle brush.


Which Hand Wash Method Is Best?

Antiseptic hand washing is generally considered superior and more effective in reducing the microorganism count. However, proper hand washing with soap and water is also recommended for routine hand hygiene.


What Is the First Step in Hand Washing?

The most important primary and essential step in hand washing is to wet the hands with copious amounts of warm water. Wet hands would ensure complete coverage of hands with soap and sufficient lather formation to clean the hand thoroughly and efficiently.


What Are the Three Elements of Hand Washing?

The three primary components of handwashing are soap, warm water, and sufficient friction.


What Is Hand Hygiene?

Hand hygiene or hand washing is effectively cleaning hands using soap and water or antiseptic solutions to remove dirt, grease, and microorganisms. Effective hand hygiene is essential to prevent illness and keep oneself healthy.


How Long Should the Handwashing Process Take?

The entire process of effective hand washing should take around 20 seconds, sufficient enough to hum the “happy birthday song” twice.


What Are the Goals of Hand Washing?

Hand washing helps remove bacteria and other microorganisms, thus helping prevent infections and the spread of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.


What Is the WHO Guideline on Hand Hygiene?

WHO emphasizes good hand hygiene practices, such as appropriately cleaning the hands at the right time. The WHO multimodal hand hygiene improvement strategy has proved most effective in reducing the global burden of diseases.


When Washing Hands What Should Be the Temperature of Water?

While washing hands, the water should be warm and not hot. A comfortable temperature of 100 degrees is more efficient in removing dirt and bacteria. Water above 120 degrees may result in scalding.


Why Is Warm Water Used in Handwashing?

Warm water is generally preferred for handwashing because:
- It lathers soap better and ensures the spread throughout the hand.
- It can effectively remove oil, grease, and other dirt that harbor microorganisms.
- Studies have proven warm water is more effective than cold water in killing microorganisms.


What Should You Not Do When Washing Hands?

Do not use hot water to wash your hands. It would result in chapping and cracks promoting the accumulation of microorganisms. While lathering with soap, do not run water into the hands. Ensure not to touch any surfaces after hand washing. After scrubbing, rinse well to remove the soap from your hands.
Quadros Krystel Godfrey Lavina
Quadros Krystel Godfrey Lavina



hand hygieneprevent infectionshand washing steps
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