You've been washing your hands wrong your whole life – here’s how to do it properly

By Samantha Luiz
24 April 2016

Keeping your hands clean is one of the most effective ways to avoid getting sick or spreading germs to other people.

And you've been doing it wrong the whole time.

According to a new study conducted at Scotland’s Glasgow Caledonian University, using the World Health Organization’s six-step method of washing your hands is more effective than the three-step way previously recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The single most important intervention that you can do to prevent health care-associated infection but also to protect yourself and your family from infections and viruses,” said Jacqui Reilly, the lead author of the study.

With twice the steps, the WHO method takes approximately 42.5 seconds to properly wash your hands, while the CDC method takes only 35 seconds.

While it may be tempting to choose the shorter method, the study, which involved hospital workers, the WHO method reduced the bacteria count from 3.28 to 2.58, versus the CDC's decrease from 3.08 to 2.88.

Before we go into the six-step method, it is important to remember that bacteria can sit under your watch and rings, for example, making it difficult to get that thorough clean.

So, before you get started, remove your jewellery. If you have scratches or wounds on your hand, keep them covered to avoid potential infection.

Now, you're ready to wash your hands.

Here's the World Health Organization’s (WHO) six-step method:

1. Rub palm to palm.

2. Rub back of left hand over right palm and vice versa.

3. Rub palm to palm with fingers interlaced.

4. Rub backs of fingers on opposing palms with fingers interlocked.

5. Rub around right thumb with left palm and vice versa.

6. Rub palm of left hand with fingers of right hand and vice versa.

Watch the video below to see an illustration of the two methods.


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