Hand Hygiene for Your Home and Schools

What is hand hygiene?

It’s when you clean your hands with soap and running water, or with an alcohol-based hand rub.

It’s the most important activity you can do to prevent catching and spreading germs.

When should I do it?


  • Eating
  • Water play or other hand activities
  • Giving first aid or touching medication
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses
  • Feeding or giving other personal care (e.g. bathing, cutting nails, etc.)
  • Handling food
  • Putting on gloves


  • Changing a diaper or coming in contact with other bodily fluids (including blood)
  • Using the toilet or cleaning up an accident
  • Blowing your nose
  • Outside activities, play or gardening
  • Handling animals or cleaning cages
  • Handling raw meat or vegetables
  • Working with products that are poisonous (refer to labels on products)
  • Removing gloves

And any time your hands are dirty!

What’s wrong with cleaning our hands in a common (shared) tub filled with soapy water?

  • It doesn’t clean off the germs, it simply spreads them around.
  • Also bad for removing peanut butter residue, for the same reason.
  • Okay for removing paint, but must be followed by proper hand hygiene.

Why shouldn’t we clean our hands in a kitchen sink with food in it?

  • Food prepared in the sink can become contaminated.

What things make it hard to clean my hands properly?

  • Rings
  • Watches and bracelets that slide down onto hands.
  • False nails

Which method should I use?

Soap and Water Handwashing

  • When hands are visibly dirty

Cleaning hands with soap and water:

  1. Wet your hands with warm running water and add plain soap (not antibacterial).
  2. Lather well for at least 15 seconds.
  3. Scrub between fingers, under and around nails, around back and palms of hands, between fingers, and around the wrist.
  4. Rinse well under warm running water to remove soap residue.
  5. Dry hands gently using a clean paper towel or your own personal cloth towel.
  6. Turn off faucet with the paper towel if used.
  7. Discard paper towel in the garbage.
  8. Rub on hand cream to prevent chapping, if you wash hands frequently.  Skin that is rough or chapped is more easily infected.


  • Keep bar soap in a self-draining, regularly-cleaned holder.
  • Keep liquid soap in original container; do not re-fill liquid soap containers that are not designed for re-use.

Alcohol-Based Hand Rubs

  • When hands are NOT visibly dirty
  • When water or handwashing facilities are not available
  • When situations require very frequent hand hygiene

Cleaning hands with alcohol-based hand rubs (the gold standard in healthcare!):

  1. Apply one pump of handrub to hands.

Rub hands together until dry – approx. 15 seconds.

  1. Ensure that children and confused people are supervised in using handrubs.

Alcohol hand rubs are available in many locations.

A product containing 60% to 90% alcohol is considered effective for normal hand hygiene. Many home use concentrations are at 62%. Three alcohols are most appropriate for use on the skin: ethyl (ethanol), normal-propyl (n-propyl), and isopropyl. The concentration (%) of alcohol is more important than the type of alcohol contained in the product.