Here Are the Handwashing Basics Everyone Should Know

Connect Healthy Tips Here Are the Handwashing Basics Everyone Should Know

Exactly how long should you wash your hands? Is antibacterial soap really necessary? Does washing your hands matter at all?

The Four Main Principles of Handwashing

Not only is handwashing important, it is the easiest and most effective way to prevent spreading diseases. According to the American Medical Association, there are four main principles to handwashing:

  • Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating.
  • Do not cough into hands.
  • Do not sneeze into hands.
  • Above all, do not put your fingers in your eyes, nose, or mouth.

What Soap Is Best?

As far as the best soap to use, the FDA says that there is no evidence proving that antibacterial soap helps kill germs any better than using plain soap and water. In fact, long-term use of antibacterial soap could have negative effects on your health. The best thing to use when washing your hands is plain soap and clean water.

The Most Effective Way to Wash Your Hands

Because handwashing is so important in preventing the spread of germs and diseases, it’s important to know the best way to do it. According to the CDC, when you wash your hands you should do the following.

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Does Hand Sanitizer Work, Too?

What if you don’t have soap and clean water available? The best thing to do when this happens is to use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations. However, sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals, so you should follow up by washing your hands with soap and water as soon as possible. To get the best use from your hand sanitizer:

  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

Learn More About the Health Information Center

For more information about the importance of handwashing, or other ways to prevent the spread of diseases, contact the Health Information Center. The Health Information Center is a library staffed by medical librarians and certified health information specialists. If you let us know your health information needs, we will do research for you, print what we find, and mail it straight to your house. You can call us at 865-305-9525. We also have a large collection of health books covering a variety of topics, including the following:

The book of joy : lasting happiness in a changing world

Hardwiring happiness : the new brain science of contentment, calm, and confidence

Juggling life, work, and caregiving

This healthy tip is provided by the Health Information Center at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Becoming a library member is free and only requires a picture ID.

The Health Information Center in located on the first floor the hospital. We have computers, printers, and a quiet place to take a break. We are open the following times:

Mon.-Thurs., 8:30 am-9 pm
Fri., 8:30 am-5 pm
Sat., 9 am-5 pm
Sun., 1 pm-9 pm


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