Wet. Lather, Scrub. Rinse. Dry. While it may seem intuitive to many of us, these simple hand-washing steps have the potential to prevent thousands of illnesses each year. In fact, studies indicate hand washing helps reduce respiratory illnesses like the cold by 21% and diarrhea-related illnesses by 31%. Hand washing can be so effective the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have even call it the “do-it-yourself vaccine.” Want to keep your employees healthy? Check out “Hand Washing 101” from CTEH’s occupational health nurse:

 What’s the best way for employees to wash their hands?

Employees should first wet their hands with clean, running water. They should then lather the backs of their hands, between their fingers and under their nails with soap. Next, they should scrub their hands for at least 20 seconds and rinse with clean, running water (Hint: The CDC recommends scrubbing them for the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” at least twice). Finally, they should dry their hands with a clean towel or air dry.

When should they wash their hands?

We recommend employees wash their hands after blowing their noses, coughing or sneezing; using the toilet; and touching animals, waste and/or garbage. They should also wash their hands before and after eating food or treating a cut or wound. As a general rule of thumb we recommend, “When in doubt, wash your hands!”

Can employees use hand sanitizer instead of washing their hands?

It’s best to wash hands with soap and water. If this is unavailable, employees can reduce germs by using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. They simply need to apply the sanitizer to palms and fingers and rub together until dry. It’s important to note, however, hand sanitizer does not eliminate all types of germs or harmful chemicals from hands.

Interested in finding out more? Share your questions or comments for CTEH’s nurses on our Facebook, and stay tuned for Handwashing 101: True or False.