How To: Proper Hand Washing Technique

Hand Washing The Right Way

Surgeons washing hands before surgery, close-up, mid section
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Why Is Hand Washing So Important?

Hand washing is the number one way to prevent infection. While sanitizing hand lotions have become increasingly popular, studies show that a good hand washing with soap and water is still more effective if you have visibly soiled hands. Hand washing can even prevent you from catching the common cold!

For surgery patients, a thorough hand washing prior to performing a dressing change can mean the different between a speedy recovery and an infected incision.

 Hand washing is critical to the prevention of infection and should be done frequently.  Your hands should be washed immediately before your touch your healing incision. 

How To: Hand Washing 101

Step One

Using warm or lukewarm running water lather your hands with soap. Cold water is not as effective and hot water should be avoided because it is drying to the skin. The soap does not need to be antibacterial to be effective.

Step Two

Rub your hands together to make a lather. If you you have dirt under your nails, use this opportunity to clean under them. Rub your palms together and intertwine your fingers to make sure you get between them. Don't forget the back of your hands!

Step Three

Keep rubbing your hands together! For a proper hand washing this step should take no less than 20 seconds. Not sure when you're done? Try singing your ABC's twice, and you should be fine.

Step Four

Rinse your hands well.

Ideally, start by rinsing your wrists and letting the water run off of your finger tips. Then rinse the rest of your hands as necessary.

Step Five

Dry your hands well, using a clean paper towel or allowing your hands to air dry. Nurses and doctors are trained to turn the faucet off with a paper towel.

Why? Because you turned it on with dirty hands, so you may not want to touch it with your freshly cleaned hands.

When To Wash Your Hands

  • When your hands are visibly dirty or soiled
  • After using the restroom or any time you are in contact with bodily fluids (sneezing, changing diapers)
  • Before and after touching a surgical incision
  • Before eating and food preparation

What If I Can't Wash My Hands?

If you don't have access to a sink, use antibacterial hand sanitizer. Make sure it is at least 60% alcohol and use plenty of it. It won't remove obvious dirt, but it will help to prevent spreading germs.

More Surgery Information: All About Incision Care

Clean Hands Save Lives. Centers For Disease Control

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