What Are Handwashing Guidelines Established by the CDC?


Quick Answer

Wet hands, lather soap, scrub your hands for 20 seconds, rinse under running water, and dry on a clean towel, according to the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and running water are not available.

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Full Answer

Washing your hands with clean, running water and soap is the best way to remove germs, states the CDC. If running water is not available, use another clean water source with soap. The CDC only recommends hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Hand sanitizer does not eliminate all germs and does not remove visible dirt or grease.

Either cold or warm water works for washing hands, explains the CDC. Soap is an important component to handwashing because it has surfactants that help remove the germs on the skin. Rub your hands together to lather the soap. Focus on all areas including the back of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails. The recommended 20-second scrubbing time is roughly equivalent to two rounds of the "Happy Birthday" song. Rinse all sides of the hands to remove the lather. Rinsing thoroughly also gets rid of the dirt and microbes you loosened while scrubbing. If you do not have a clean towel for drying, allow your hands to air dry.

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