Back to Basics: Hand-Washing 101

Source: EMR-ISAC

One of the most basic rules of sanitation and infection control in our modern lives is hand-washing, yet studies show the general public either fail to wash their hands as long as recommended or fail to do it entirely. Some studies even say hand-washing rates are low among EMS workers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and (hot or cold) water, lathering for at least 20 seconds. To know for sure you are washing long enough, sing or hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice through. Rinse hands well; dry with a paper towel or air dry. Make sure to focus on areas often missed, like fingernails and between fingers.

Medical workers or anyone interested in ensuring a very thorough hand-washing can follow this instructional poster from the World Health Organization. This method takes 40-60 seconds but addresses all areas of the hands specifically. This method also recommends using a paper towel to turn off faucets.

The study cited above stated people are more likely to wash their hands when there were signs posted reminding them to do it. The CDC offers some free hand-washing posters on their web site. Also, a quick online search will provide many more options.