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Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions, including coronavirus, are spread in part by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

Coronavirus can live on many surfaces for hours or even days. If you touch one of these surfaces, 20+ seconds of washing with soap and water is the most effective step you can take to avoid catching COVID-19. This is important because:

  • Most people touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it, allowing germs to get into the body and make us sick.
  • Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, table tops, or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.

How Should You Wash Your Hands?

Not all hand washing techniques will get you the same results. To stay safe in this time of coronavirus, start by wetting your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold). Then, turn off the tap, and apply soap. This allows you to soap up while soaping up by rubbing your hands together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Make sure to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice, or search Google for other songs that you like better to help keep time.

After your 20+ seconds of washing, it is time to rinse well under clean, running water. Note that the rinse comes after lathering – don’t wash your soap off too fast! Turning off the water while lathering helps with this.

Finally, dry your hands using a clean towel, or let them air dry.

Once your hands are clean, be careful what you touch! If you are in a public restroom, use a paper towel if you need to open the door to exit the room, and carefully dispose of the towel in a sanitary fashion.

For more information, check out the CDC’s comprehensive section on handwashing.