Introduction: How to Wash Your Hands Properly (Or Teach Others Hand Washing) - Ebola 101

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*On the surface Hand Washing seems simple, but doing it improperly can recontaminate your hands and leave you vulnerable to illness and disease.

Hand washing, as deemed by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), is the single best way to avoid infection. Hand washing helps break up germs, dirt and other harmful particles on your hands with the combination of soap, water, friction and a paper towel.

On the surface hand washing is simple and elementary. However, many people do it improperly and actually walk away almost as contaminated (and sometimes more so) than before they washed. Plus, if hand washing is so simple then why don't all of us do it?

Follow the steps to proper hand washing to develop good hygiene and infection control habits. Once you have consistently incorporated infection control principles into your daily routines then you can experience increased health. Please note, we do not support over cleaning, hygiene OCD, germaphobia or other intense behaviors. We support a responsible approach to hygiene and recommend living in accordance with a few sound infection control principles.

If you have questions on how to best wash, teach others or promote hand hygiene then please email us ( or go to our site


Step 1: Prepare Towel Before Washing Hands

If available, prepare a paper towel before you wash your hands.  Most hand towel dispensers are automatic so wave your hand to have some of the paper extracted.  Do not remove the paper from the dispenser at this time. 

Step 2: Turn Water on and Wet Your Hands

Turn the faucet on or wave your hand over the sensor if it is automatic.  If temperature control is available, get the water to a very warm level.  Caution, do not turn it too hot in order to avoid burning and to avoid eventual dry/cracking skin.  A comfortable level is adequate.

Step 3: Apply Soap Liberally

Apply the soap available in the restroom or use the soap you use for traveling and emergency situations.  Lather the soap so that you can effectively cover the palms and backs of your hands.  Carrying soap with you can come in handy.  See your local store for sheet soap which is as thin as paper and intended for single use. 

Step 4: Rub Hands Together and Create Friction

Once the soap is applied, rub your hands together.  Rub every part of your hands on your palms and the backs of the hands.  Friction causes the germs and other harmful particles to leave the surface of your skin.  Since soap generally (most soaps anyway) don't KILL germs, you need to work hard to get all the germs off your hands through friction. 

The general rule is to rub your hands for 10-20 seconds.  The spots that are often missed during hand washing include (but not limited to): The areas between fingers, the fingernail areas and wrist/thumb area.  If you want to teach a hand washing lesson with Glo Germ (fluorescent powder or gel that can show where people miss while washing if used under a UV black light) see:

Step 5: Rinse Hands Off

After rubbing the soap all around and creating friction, hold you hands under the running water.  Rub the soap off and hit all areas of your hands once more as the water washes the suds and germs off.  Be careful not to touch the sides of the sink now that your hands are clean.  Once the soap has been washed off, leave water running.

Step 6: Dry Hands With the Prepared Paper Towel

After rinsing your hands (without turning the faucet off), grab the prepared paper towel from the dispenser.  Dry your hands and slightly rub the towel over them to get off any remaining germs.

Step 7: Turn Faucet Off

After drying, use the paper towel to turn the faucet off.  Using a paper towel allows your hands to not be recontaminated. 

If you think about the procession of hand washing, people touch and turn the faucet on when their hands ARE DIRTY.  If you are to touch the faucet once again after washing, you would be getting the same germs on your hands.

Step 8: Leaving the Restroom

With the paper towel still in hand from turning off the faucet, turn to leave the restroom.  If needed or possible, use the paper towel to open the door of the restroom.  This ensures that you are not getting germs from those that used the restroom but did not washing their hands properly (or at all for the matter).  Touching a bathroom door can contaminate your hands with the germs of others' feces... who wants that!

Step 9: Dispose of the Paper Towel and Leave Clean!

Throw the paper towel away as soon as possible so that the germs are not spread to you.  This may seem like an intense process for hand washing, but it is quite simple when you get in the habit.  All parts of the process are intuitive but many times we are in a rush.  If you dedicate yourself to following the steps over a few weeks then it will be less cumbersome.  Good luck and we hope you can OUTFOX infection to avoid illness and disease!

OUTFOX Prevention
(910) OUTFOX-1 [910.688.3691]

Step 10:

We have compiled these hand washing steps into a one-page guide that you can print and pass along. Simply click the this link: Hand Washing Instructions or paste the following link into your browser (the PDF download button will be at the bottom of the page on OUTFOX's site). The sheet is free-use so please feel free to print as many copies or pass the PDF to colleagues, etc.!

OUTFOX also provides many other infection control activities, games and other hygiene tools to teach your students and employees. We distribute Glo Germ which is a great tool to teach hand washing and cleaning.

Let us know if you have questions!

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