How to Wash Your Hands Correctly

Your Health Can Depend on It

The numbers tell the story of germs, illness and handwashing. According to Mark Gendreau, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals, we are exposed to about 60,000 germs every day, from every surface we touch. Then we touch our faces—about 16 times each hour. Since the eyes, nose and mouth are the most common pathways for germs to enter the body, we’re setting ourselves up for infection. In fact, 80 percent of all infections are spread by hands.

That makes proper handwashing an essential tool for staying healthy. But again, the numbers aren’t on our side. According to Dr. Gendreau, “Half of all people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, mostly men. And of those who do wash, 95 percent don’t do it properly.”

Sing “Happy Birthday”—Twice

The quick rinse that most people consider a hand wash leaves many germs in place. Dr. Gendreau points out that this can put your health at risk. It can also spread germs to others and contribute to antibiotic resistance.

You can protect yourself and those around you from infection by following a simple rule: sing “Happy Birthday” twice while you’re washing your hands. This ensures you’ll keep washing for at least 20 to 30 seconds.

As you wash, lather your hands well and concentrate on where germs tend to hide—between the fingers and at the cuticles and fingernails. Also, wash the backs of your hands.

The Science Behind the Song

According to Dr. Gendreau, washing your hands for 20 to 30 seconds is based on 175 years of science aimed at improving your health and well-being. “It will fully immobilize the germs and kill them by disrupting their cellular membranes,” he says.

Contrary to myth, washing your hands correctly doesn’t weaken your immune system or make you more prone to allergies. It also doesn’t make you a germaphobe.

Instead, “Correct hand washing can save your life,” Dr. Gendreau says.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.