7 Steps Of Handwashing (How to wash your hands properly)

It’s no secret: our hands come into contact with a lot of stuff throughout the day, and some of them are pretty icky. 

Not only do we use our hands when we’re using the bathroom, cooking and using our daily tools for work and play, but we also can come into contact with potential sickness-inducing bacteria and viruses every time we touch any common area surfaces! 

So the very first proactive step that we can take to protect our health and keep our hands clean is to wash them … and wash them well. Here are seven easy-to-follow handwashing tips so that you can get a really deep clean, every time. 

The 7 Steps Of Handwashing

It’s not enough to simply lather up with soap and rinse it off as quickly as you can. Here’s how to get rid of all of the dirt and germs from your hands with a thorough handwashing. 

Wet hands with water and apply soap.

    Neither water alone nor soap alone is enough to wash your hands; in order to get rid of dirt and grime, you’ll need both. When the two are combined and lathered up during your handwashing, they work to dissolve oils and trap bacteria, dirt, and any other substances you may have picked up into the bubbles, which can then be rinsed off afterward leaving your hands clean. 

    You can use either hot, cold, or warm water to rinse your hands. Running water is preferable since it’s less likely to be carrying waterborne pathogens. Then, apply the soap of your choice to your hands, making sure to use enough to cover both hands when lathered. 

    Wash your palms.

      The next step is to make sure that you’re thoroughly scrubbing your entire hand, starting with your palms. To thoroughly wash your palms, rub both of your palms together back and forth and then in a circular motion. 

      Wash the backs of your hands.

        Don’t overlook the back of your hands and your fingers! Use the fingers and palms on your opposite hand to scrub the entire back of your hand. 

        Wash between your fingers. 

          You’ll also want to get in between all of your fingers by interlocking your hands and scrubbing thoroughly. Make sure to get the space in between your thumb and your forefinger as well by using your opposite hand. 

          Wash your fingernails.

            Your fingernails can pick up a lot of dirt and bacteria, so make sure to pay extra attention here. Thoroughly scrub around your nail beds to get rid of the dirt and grime that may have accumulated.

            Wash your wrists. 

              Finally, make sure you aren’t skipping your wrists! Use your opposite hand to scrub each wrist thoroughly, making sure to get all the way around. 

              Rinse off with clean water and dry. 

                Washing your hands thoroughly should take about twenty seconds. After this time has elapsed and you’re sure you’ve gotten a thorough handwashing, place your hands beneath clean running water to rinse off the soap, dirt, and bacteria. Then, use a clean towel to dry off (alternatively, you can also air dry or use a hand dryer, but be sure not to touch anything else while your hands are still wet). 

                Frequently Asked Questions

                What kind of soap should I use to wash my hands?

                You can use any kind of regular soap and water to wash your hands, including liquid hand soap in a dispenser or your favorite bar soap variety. If you prefer to use bar soap, make sure that your bar soap is thoroughly dried in between uses to avoid harboring moisture-loving bacteria (Pacha Soap Co.’s Bamboo Magnetic Soap Holder is a great solution for this, by the way!). 

                Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to use antibacterial hand soap to get a thorough clean. In fact, the overuse of antibacterial hand soap can actually be fairly detrimental since it can kill off good bacteria and leave your hands feeling dry rather than nourished. In many cases, plain soap and water are perfectly sufficient for getting rid of the germs that you might have picked up during the day. 

                When should I wash my hands? 

                Since you use your hands so often, and because they come into contact with so many objects and microbes, you should wash your hands several times a day. 

                At a minimum, you should be washing your hands: 

                • After using the bathroom 
                • Before and after you cook (as well as between steps to avoid cross-contamination --- for example, after you cut chicken and before moving on to cutting vegetables) 
                • Before eating 
                • When you come home from a public area like your work or the store 
                • After touching garbage and/or waste 
                • After coughing, sneezing, and/or blowing your nose, or coming into contact with anyone who is sick
                • After touching anything that may have come into contact with sickness-causing bacteria like door handles, stair railings in public places, shopping carts, gas pumps, etc. 
                • After touching pets, livestock, and other animals 
                • Before touching your face

                Can I use hand sanitizer instead of washing my hands?

                Hand sanitizer is not a good substitute for proper handwashing technique. 

                However, in certain cases where you don’t have access to soap and water, hand sanitizer may be your next best option. Use an alcohol-based solution that contains at least 60% alcohol for the best results. Then wash your hands with regular soap and water as soon as you get the chance. 

                How long should I wash my hands for? 

                To get a thorough clean, you should be washing your hands for at least twenty seconds (that’s about the same length of time as singing the “Happy Birthday” song two times over!). 


                Proper handwashing technique is a crucial life skill that can keep you better protected from all of the dirt, grime, and bacteria that you can come into contact with every single day. Remember to thoroughly scrub every area of your hands, including your fingernails and wrists, and give yourself plenty of time to leave your hands as clean as they can be! 

                Photo by Castorly Stock: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-washing-hands-on-sink-3944858/