hand washing

How to wash your hands

Why do I need to wash my hands to prevent infection?

Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly is one of the most important measures you can take to help reduce the risk of respiratory infections.  During your busy day, you touch objects, surfaces, or other people that are harbouring germs. Later, as you touch your nose, eyes or mouth, these germs may enter the body and cause illness. Regular hand washing can help you remove these germs and help prevent illness or passing the germs onto others.

When should I wash my hands?

To help prevent infection, wash your hands often with soap and water. Hand washing needs to occur, not just when your hands are visibly dirty, but also:

  • Before and after eating
  • After going to the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After visiting a public space, including public transportation, shop, restaurants and places of worship
  • After touching surfaces outside of the home, including money
  • Before, during and after caring for a sick person
  • After touching animals and pets
  • After changing babies’ nappies or helping children use the toilet

If you do not have access to soap and water, and you’re hands aren’t visibly dirty, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. The World Health Organisation recommends a hand sanitiser that is between 60-80% alcohol.

How do I wash my hands to remove germs?

While it may seem like common sense, sometimes we may become a little lax with our hand washing. By washing your hands correctly, you can help protect yourself and others from the germs that can cause infection. Teach your children also to wash their hands regularly.

How to wash your hands properly:

Step 1 — Wet hands with running water.

Step 2 — Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces.

Step 3 — Scrub all hand surfaces — including the back of hands, between fingers and under nails — for at least 20 seconds.

Step 4 — Rinse thoroughly with running water.

Step 5 — Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use paper towel.

Step 6 — If using a paper towel, turn off the tap with the paper towel.

Hand washing should take 20-30 seconds when using soap and water and 20 seconds when using hand sanitiser.

What else can I do to fight infection?

In addition to washing your hands, there are other non-pharmacological steps you can take to help prevent infections, these include:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you often touch such as benchtops, desks and doorknobs
  • Clean and disinfect objects you often use such as mobile phones, keys, wallets and work passes
  • Use tap and go instead of cash where possible
  • Increase the amount of fresh air by opening windows
  • Practice good respiratory hygiene — catch a sneeze or cough in your elbow, blow your nose on a tissue and then immediately throw the tissue away — and always wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or touching your nose.

There are many things you can do to help prevent the spread of germs (like bacteria and viruses) that cause infection. Washing your hands thoroughly, being mindful to avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth and keeping surfaces around the home clean will all help keep you and your family healthy and safe.

MAT-AU-2203394. Dec 2022.

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