National Handwashing Awareness – How well do you wash your hands?

Young Asian Mother Helping Her Daughter To Wash HandsHappy National Handwashing Awareness! Recognized in early December, with appropriate timing with cold and flu season, let’s take a minute to acknowledge a fundamental part of maintaining our overall health is through washing our hands. We spend a lot of time instructing kids as to the proper washing technique but don’t often reinforce it later in life.  So, what are the recommendations and good reminders to remember this season?

  • It may seem like a lot, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention outlines five steps to washing your hands. Don’t worry though, they’re simple. They are: Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry.  That’s it, and in that order.  The CDC recommends that with these simple steps, you’re providing a “do-it-yourself” vaccine.  Aim for at least 20 seconds of washing with clean, soapy water.  Create lots of soap bubbles, being sure to clean all parts of the hand, including the back of the hands, between fingers, and under your nails.  Then dry thoroughly with a clean towel.  Do this every time you wash your hands.
  • Now for when to wash. It may seem obvious, but the first recommendation of when to wash your hands is when they are dirty.  Also recommended is to wash hands before eating.  Avoid coughing and sneezing directly into your hands, or wash immediately afterward if you do cover your face, and do so before touching anything else.  Lastly, avoid putting your fingers and/or hands in, or near, your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • When you don’t have soap and water, opt for hand sanitizer. Try to use alcohol-based sanitizers that are at least 60% alcohol.  Apply the sanitizer to the palm of your hand and rub your hands together.  Just like washing, aim for 20 seconds of rubbing, being sure to get all surfaces of the hand and between fingers.  You know you’re done when your hands are dry.

When you think of how many things you touch in a day, then compound that with how many other people probably touched the same thing, it can get gross to think about.  Washing your hands is an important part of preventing the spread of illness or disease, so let’s do our part to keep ourselves and others healthy.


Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more about the program, visit the Adult Fitness website. More health tips are also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board