When to Wash Your Hands & When to use Hand Sanitizer

With everything going on right now one of the best things you can do for yourself and others is to wash your hands. Also, using your hand sanitizer. But when able to wash your hands you should as hand sanitizer may not remove harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals. Handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs, pesticides, and metals on hands. Knowing when to clean your hands and which method to use will give you the best chance of preventing sickness.

Washing your hands helps keep you healthy and prevents the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infection from one person or surface to the next. Germs spread from surfaces or others when:

  • Touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Preparing or eating food and/or drinks with unwashed hands
  • Touching contaminated surfaces or objects
  • You blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into your hands and then touch other people’s hands or common objects
When to Wash Your Hands
  • Before, during, and after food preparation
  • Before eating
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after cleaning up vomit or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the restroom
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After handling garbage
  • If your hands feel or are visibly dirty or greasy

Because of the coronavirus you should also wash your hands after being in a public place and have touched an item or surface that has potentially been touched frequently by others. These objects can be grocery carts, door handles, gas pumps, an electronic cashier register/screen, credit card terminals, freezer door handles, etc. You should also wash your hands before you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth being that’s one way germs can enter your body.

Washing Your Hands

Washing your hands is very simple and easy. Per the CDC, following these five steps every time can stop germs from spreading throughout an entire community.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for atleast 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

When I wash my hands I try to only use warm or hot water mainly because I like the warmth but also because I feel like my hands get cleaner with warm or hot water. I also take my nail beds and scrub them on the palm of my hand for each hand since my nails are a little long to help make sure they get clean. Lastly, I wash up to my wrists as they come in contact with a lot of surfaces.

To watch how Lauren with the Nebraska Medicine Prevention team recommends how you wash your hands please click here. It is very similar to the CDC but instead of scrubbing for 20 seconds they recommend 40 seconds. They also recommend turning the faucet off with a paper towel AFTER drying your hands off.

Using Hand Sanitizer

Though the best way to clean your hands is soap and water, hand sanitizer is a great substitute if you’re not able to wash your hands. However, sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs. They also may not be as effective when your hands are visibly dirty and/or greasy. Lastly, sanitizers do no remove all harmful chemicals from your hands. You also want your hand sanitizer to be effective. So you will want hand sanitizer that is atleast 60% alcohol which you can see if your sanitizer is by reading the back label.

  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand. You can read the label to learn the correct amount as you want enough to get the job done.
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the sanitizer over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This includes between the fingers and nail beds. This should take around 20 seconds.

When I use hand sanitizer I like to go up to my wrist just to be safe as my wrists touch a lot of surfaces during the day.

Washing your hands is a better solution than using hand sanitizer, but sometimes you have no choice but to use hand sanitizer and that’s okay. Just make sure that every 2-3 times you use hand sanitizer you are washing your hands. And because of everything going on right now with coronavirus, try and get up every hour and wash your hands if possible.