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Washing & Disinfection of Hands

author image Holly L. Roberts
Holly Roberts is an award-winning health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in health, lifestyle and fitness magazines. Roberts has also worked as an editor for health association publications and medical journals. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in literature.
Washing & Disinfection of Hands
A mother and her son washing their hands. Photo Credit: MIXA next/MIXA/Getty Images

Especially during cold and flu season, make sure you're washing and disinfecting your hands the right way. Like eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise, washing your hands correctly is an important part of your healthy self-care regimen.

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Regular hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself against infection from germs, including the germs that cause the H1N1 flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. Washing and disinfecting your hands is one of the most effective methods for preventing spreading germs to other people, too.

Time Frame

Ideally, you should wash your hands several times throughout the day. Wash your hands before touching food--whether cooking or eating--and before helping a sick or injured person, according to the You should wash your hands every time you finish using the bathroom as well as after blowing your nose, changing a diaper, preparing food, handling garbage or helping a sick or injured person.


To clean and disinfect your hands, the CDC recommends washing your hands vigorously with soap and warm water for at least 15 to 20 seconds. Wet your hands and lather up with soap before rubbing your hands together, and be sure to rinse the soap residue from your hands completely. Use an air dryer or paper towel to dry your hands.


The Mayo Clinic recommends using a paper towel to turn off the tap after you've cleaned your hands. If you can't wash your hands with soap and water, the CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels. To use these, apply the gel to your hands and rub them together until the gel feels dry.

Expert Insight

Be wary of over-disinfecting your hands with antimicrobial soap, warns Elaine Larson, professor of pharmaceutical and therapeutic research and professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, on the CDC website. According to Larson, long-term use of antimicrobial soaps can damage your hands, making them more susceptible to infection.

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