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How to wash your hands

Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from illnesses such as food poisoning and flu.

Video: How to wash your hands

Watch this video to find out the best way to wash your hands.

Media last reviewed: 30 March 2020
Media review due: 30 March 2023

You should wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice (around 20 seconds):

image of turning tap on in sink
1. Wet your hands with water.
image of applying soap over the sink
2. Apply enough soap to cover your hands.
image of rubbing hands together over the sink
3. Rub your hands together.
image of cleaning between the fingers over the sink
4. Use 1 hand to rub the back of the other hand and clean in between the fingers. Do the same with the other hand.
image of cleaning between the fingers over the sink
5. Rub your hands together and clean in between your fingers.
image of cleaning palms of hands over the sink
6. Rub the back of your fingers against your palms.
image of cleaning right thumb over the sink
7. Rub your thumb using your other hand. Do the same with the other thumb.
image of cleaning left palm over the sink
8. Rub the tips of your fingers on the palm of your other hand. Do the same with other hand.
image of rinsing hands in the sink
9. Rinse your hands with water.
image of drying hands with a disposable towel
10. Dry your hands completely with a disposable towel.
image of turning off the tap using a disposable towel
11. Use the disposable towel to turn off the tap.

If you do not have immediate access to soap and water then use alcohol-based handrub if available.

When should you wash your hands?

You should wash your hands:

  • after using the toilet or changing a nappy
  • before and after handling raw foods like meat and vegetables
  • before eating or handling food
  • after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • before and after treating a cut or wound
  • after touching animals, including pets, their food and after cleaning their cages

Washing your hands properly removes dirt, viruses and bacteria to stop them spreading to other people and objects, which can spread illnesses such as food poisoning, flu or diarrhoea.

It can help stop people picking up infections and spreading them to others.

It can also help stop spreading infections when you're visiting someone in hospital or another healthcare setting.

Page last reviewed: 18 October 2019
Next review due: 18 October 2022