Why and How to Wash Your Hands Properly

Our latest blog examines some of the most common ways that you can spread or contract viruses and bacteria with your hands, and how to practice a thorough handwashing routine.


Our latest blog examines some of the most common ways that you can spread or contract viruses and bacteria with your hands, and how to practice a thorough handwashing routine.

Maintaining a regular, thorough handwashing routine is something we should all be doing as a matter of course. But with serious conditions like Coronavirus (COVID-19), norovirus and flu doing the rounds, learning why and how to wash your hands properly has become even more important.

Common ways that bacteria and viruses can be spread from unwashed hands are:

  • Via the face – the mouth, nose and eyes are vulnerable places when it comes to transferring germs into your body, so avoid touching these areas as much as you can. Also, wash your hands after sneezing or blowing your nose to avoid spreading any viruses or bacteria you may have on to others.
  • Through poor food handling practices – cross contamination from incorrect food handling (like not washing your hands between handling raw meat and salad, for example) puts everyone at risk of infection. Always wash your hands before you eat too.
  • By touching high use objects – this includes things you and other people touch a lot, like mobile phones, door handles, tabletops, chair backs, light switches, computer keyboards, toys, remote controls and money.
  • Through faecal contamination – this comes from not washing your hands properly after you’ve been to the toilet or changed a nappy.

It’s important to be more aware of what you touch in general and to try to wash your hands properly after changing environments (going from public transport to work, for example). Children, older people and those with other health conditions or suppressed immune systems are particularly at risk of becoming ill from hand-borne contaminants. So, it pays to be especially rigorous about washing your hands if you’re in contact with anyone in these categories.

Learn the correct handwashing technique

The good news is that washing your hands properly is quick and easy. All you need is soap, running water and 20 seconds of your time – not much to ask to reduce the infection risk to you and those around you.

  1. Wet your hands first. This helps the soap get everywhere it needs to go more effectively.
  2. Apply soap. You don’t need anything fancy here - a good rub with a normal bar of soap or a couple of pumps of liquid soap are fine. As long as you use enough to coat your hands thoroughly and get a good lather going.
  3. Rub your palms together well then rub the backs of each hand with the opposite palm.
  4. Next interlock your fingers and rub back and forth to clean in between them.
  5. Then, clasp your hands together so that the backs of your fingers from the knuckle down are against the opposite palm and rub well.
  6. Wrap the opposite hand around each thumb in turn and rub up and down.
  7. Try and get under your nails if possible – having a clean nail brush handy is always useful. If you don’t have one, rub the tips of your fingers against your palm.
  8. Make sure you go right up your hands and onto the wrist area with the soap.
  9. Rinse and then dry thoroughly with disposable wipes or a clean towel. Germs love damp areas, so make sure your hands are completely dry.

If you’re a visual learner, the NHS website has a great video on the proper handwashing technique.

The whole hand washing process should take no less than 20 seconds. That’s around the same amount of time as it takes to sing Happy Birthday. (But if that’ll drive you mad, the choruses of ‘Karma Chameleon’ or Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ are good substitutions!)

Washing your hands with soap and running water is always preferable but if that’s not possible, using an alcohol-based hand sanitising gel is the next best option.

Keeping people safe with good infection control

As a leading home care agency, proper hand washing technique and infection control is something we teach all our Bluebird Care staff. It’s a really important part of helping to keep our Customers, Care Assistants and local community in good health. To find out more about our domiciliary care services and what we do to help people live safely at home, get in touch.

If you’d like to know more about infection control in relation to Coronavirus (COVID-19), check the World Health Organisation advice.