What Are the 7 Steps of Hand Washing?

Medically Reviewed on 2/23/2022

7 steps of hand washing for thorough cleaning

washing of hands
Learn the seven steps of handwashing to ensure cleanliness and help stop the spread of germs and viruses.

The recommended time for a proper and hygienic hand wash is at least 20 seconds.

Make sure to complete all the seven steps below properly to ensure safe and clean hands.

  1. Step 1: Wet hands and apply soap
    • To initiate the process, wet the hands with clean water.
    • Take soap to cover the hands and wrists; use enough to create a good lather.
    • Avoid using hot water to prevent drying of the skin.
  2. Step 2: Rub the palms together
    • Rub both hands in a circular motion.
    • Rotate clockwise and counterclockwise consecutively.
  3. Step 3: Rub the back of hands
    • Rub the back of the left hand with interlacing in between the fingers with the right hand.
    • Swap and use the same technique for the left hand.
  4. Step 4: Rub the back of the fingers
    • Clasp the hands, while they face each other, interlink the fingers, and rub the backs of the fingers against the palm of the opposite hand to deep clean them one after the other.
  5. Step 5: Rub and clean the thumbs
    • Clean the thumb by wrapping the right hand over the left thumb and rubbing rotationally.
    • Once done, swap and do the same with another thumb.
  6. Step 6: Rub and clean the tips of the fingers
    • Rub the tips of the fingers over the palm of the opposite hand in a circular motion.
    • Do the same with the fingers of the other hand.
  7. Step 7: Rinse the hands
    • Rinse the hands and wrists thoroughly with clean water.
    • Pat dry the hands.
    • Use a hand lotion or a cream after the wash to prevent dryness of the skin.

How do germs and infections spread?

Hand washing is essential for everyone, regardless of what one’s occupation is, such as sedentary office work, hotels or shop workers, or healthcare providers.

Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the importance of properly washing their hands or do not make the necessary effort.

Germs can spread through:

  • Contaminated or dirty hands
  • Contaminated food or water
  • Not washing hands after a diaper change
  • Through air droplets released via cough or sneeze
  • Touching the nose, eyes, or mouth after touching contaminated surfaces
  • Body fluids of a sick person

In most cases, the simple practice of proper handwashing can prevent the spread of infections.

Why is hand washing so important?

The hands are often a carrier of dirt and various bacteria and viruses because they come in contact with many surfaces several times throughout the day.

Hand washing is an essential process to ensure cleanliness and prevent infections, such as flu, food poisoning, COVID-19, and hospital-acquired infections.

Because bacteria can stay alive on the hands for up to three hours and viruses, such as the coronavirus, can live even longer, washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. However, if soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Sanitizers can reduce the number of germs on the hands, but:

  • They are less effective at killing all types of germs.
  • They cannot clean visibly dirty and greasy hands.
  • They are unable to get rid of harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals.

When should you wash your hands?

Washing hands is often necessary for the following scenarios:

  • Before and after
    • Eating food
    • Preparing meals
    • Taking medications
    • Using eye or ear drops
    • Treating a cut or a wound
    • Visiting or taking care of a sick person
  • After
    • Using the restroom
    • Changing the diapers
    • Coughing
    • Sneezing
    • Blowing the nose
    • Handshaking
    • Handling raw foods, such as meats and vegetables
    • Touching a visibly contaminated surface
    • Touching an animal or animal waste products
    • Pet handling
    • Cleaning the house
    • Garbage disposal
    • Using public transportation
    • Touching frequently used surfaces, such as doorknobs and lift buttons
    • Touching mobile or any other device used by others
    • Back from shopping

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 2/23/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When and how to wash your hands. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html

Cleveland Clinic. Hand Washing. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17474-hand-washing