Washing your hands is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs and infections. It’s an essential habit that everyone should practice regularly, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. But how long should you wash your hands for? Let’s explore this question in more detail.
Why is Hand Washing Important?
Before we dive into how long you should wash your hands, let’s talk about why it’s so important. Our hands come into contact with countless surfaces and objects throughout the day, including door handles, grocery carts, keyboards, and phones. These surfaces can harbor harmful bacteria and viruses, which can easily be transferred to your hands.
When you touch your face, eat, or drink, you can unknowingly introduce these germs into your body, which can cause illnesses like the flu, colds, and COVID-19. Washing your hands is the best way to remove these germs and prevent the spread of infections.
How Long Should You Wash Your Hands For?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. This is the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice or to recite the alphabet from A to Z.
However, many people don’t wash their hands for this long, which can reduce the effectiveness of hand washing. According to a study by the American Society for Microbiology, the average person only washes their hands for about 6 seconds.
To ensure that you’re washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds, the CDC recommends following these steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
How Can You Tell If You’re Washing Your Hands Long Enough?
If you’re unsure if you’re washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds, there are a few ways to tell:
- Use a timer or stopwatch on your phone to time yourself.
- Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Recite the alphabet from A to Z.
These methods can help you ensure that you’re washing your hands for the recommended amount of time.
Why is 20 Seconds the Recommended Time?
The CDC recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds because this is the amount of time it takes to effectively remove germs and bacteria from your hands. The soap and water work together to break down the germs and wash them away.
Washing your hands for less than 20 seconds can leave behind some germs, which can increase the risk of infection. It’s also important to use soap when washing your hands, as this helps to break down the oils on your skin that can harbor germs.
Other Hand Hygiene Tips
In addition to washing your hands for 20 seconds, there are other hand hygiene tips that you should follow:
- Wash your hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating or touching your face.
- Use hand sanitizer when you don’t have access to soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, and phones.
Washing your hands is an essential habit that everyone should practice regularly. To ensure that you’re washing your hands effectively, follow the CDC’s guidelines and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. By doing so, you can reduce the spread of germs and infections.