Why Is it So Important to Wash Your Hands?

Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2021
why is it so important to wash your hands
Hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of germs and protect you from getting sick from infections such as colds, flu, and COVID-19

Hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of bacteria and viruses and protect you from getting sick from:

Viruses survive on surfaces that you touch every day—doorknobs, tabletops, ATMs, smartphones, handrails, toys etc. When a sick person touches their eyes, mouth, or nose—places where germs are found in abundance—and then touches these common surfaces, germs can spread to you and enter your body when you touch your own eyes, mouth, or nose. This can be avoided by following a simple practice of hand washing.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology has estimated that on an average, people touch their faces at least 23 times an hour. So it’s important to wash your hands several times a day.

How to wash your hands properly

Washing your hands properly involves the following steps:

  1. Wet your hands under running water.
  2. Rub soap on your wet hands for 20 seconds. 
  3. Clean the front and back of your hands, fingertips, and in between your fingers.
  4. Rinse thoroughly by running your hands under tap water.
  5. Use your elbows to close the tap.
  6. Wipe your hands with a dry tissue or towel.
  7. Use the same tissue or towel to open the door of the restroom and throw it away in the trash can.

Do you need to wash your hands with antibacterial soap?

According to the FDA, there is no need to wash your hands with antibacterial soap. Soap and water are as effective as antibacterial soaps when it comes to cleaning germs from your hands. Because most germs that are transferred to your hands are viruses and not bacteria, antibacterial soap is not really necessary.

Washing your hands in soap and water is the best and most effective way to prevent the spread of germs. However, if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60% alcohol.

How often should you wash your hands?

If you have chapped, dry or cracked skin, excessive hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer may dry your skin and irritate it further. A good idea is to apply a mild lotion or moisturizer every time you wash your hands or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.

If you want to avoid the side effects of excessive hand washing, wash at these times:

  • After coming home from outside
  • After using the bathroom or toilet
  • Before you touch foods, cook, or eat
  • After handling raw meat, fruits, or vegetables
  • After sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose
  • After you have come in contact with a sick person
  • Whenever your hands look dirty
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After changing a diaper
  • After touching animals or animal waste
  • After touching garbage and body fluids


Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments See Slideshow
Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2021
Show Me the Science - Why Wash Your Hands? https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html

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