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In the realm of personal hygiene, proper hand washing stands as a cornerstone of health and well-being. The simple act of washing hands can prevent the spread of infections, illnesses, and germs. However, even though hand washing seems like a straightforward task, many individuals unknowingly commit errors that undermine its efficacy. To ensure that you’re effectively safeguarding yourself and others, let’s understand the need for handwashing and delve into the common hand washing mistakes to avoid.

The Need for Handwashing: A Vital Community Health Practice

Handwashing education is more than a routine; it’s a shield against illnesses. Studies have shown that community-wide handwashing initiatives yield remarkable results:

  • Reducing Diarrhoea: Handwashing education contributes to a 23-40% reduction in diarrhoea cases, bolstering individual and collective health.
  • Strengthening Immunity: People with weakened immune systems experience a 58% reduction in diarrheal illness.
  • Mitigating Respiratory Illnesses: By adhering to hand hygiene, the general population witnesses a 16-21% drop in respiratory illnesses.
  • Enhancing School Attendance: Implementing handwashing education curtails schoolchildren’s absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness by an impressive 29-57%.

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Common Hand Washing Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some common mistakes we often commit while washing our hands. We have already seen how impactful handwashing can be, so committing any mistakes is not an option, read out to find  where you are going week before we delve into a 5 step hand washing guide.

1. Skipping Soap Altogether

One of the most frequent mistakes people make is forgoing soap during hand washing. While water alone can help remove some dirt, soap plays a vital role in breaking down and eliminating germs and pathogens. Always apply an ample amount of soap to create a rich lather before rinsing.

2. Rushing the Process

In today’s fast-paced world, time is of the essence, but haste can compromise hand washing effectiveness. A quick splash under the tap doesn’t suffice. If you are wondering how long should hand washing take? Singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice can act as a helpful timer as proper hand washing involves rubbing your hands together for at least 20 seconds.

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3. Neglecting the Thumb and Fingertips

Many people tend to focus solely on their palms and neglect the less-visible areas such as the thumbs and fingertips, which is the wrong way to wash hands. These areas are often overlooked but are equally prone to harbouring germs. Ensure you thoroughly clean all parts of your hands, including the back, fingertips, and under the nails.

4. Ignoring Double Hand Washing

While a single round of handwashing is beneficial, at times we need double hand washing. This involves washing your hands twice in succession, amplifying the removal of germs and pathogens. You might be thinking when double hand washing is recommended?  It’s particularly effective after situations that involve potential contamination, such as using public transportation, touching high-contact surfaces, cooking food, using the restroom or interacting with sick individuals.

5. Not Drying Hands Properly

Even if you’ve executed a flawless hand washing routine, improper drying can undo your efforts. Damp hands provide a conducive environment for bacteria growth. Utilise a clean towel or an air dryer to ensure your hands are completely dry after washing.

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6. Overlooking Hand Sanitizer as an Alternative

While hand sanitizers are convenient, they should not completely replace traditional hand washing. Sanitizers are effective when soap and water aren’t available, but they may not eliminate all types of germs or harmful substances.

7. Scrubbing Too Hard

Scrubbing hands aggressively may seem thorough, but it can lead to skin irritation and damage. Gentle yet thorough rubbing is sufficient to dislodge dirt and germs without harming your skin’s natural barrier.

8. Not Washing After Certain Activities

Failing to wash hands after specific activities can increase the risk of contamination. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, touching pets, handling raw food, sneezing, or coughing.

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Hand Washing: 5 Steps 

These 5 handwashing steps can ensure you are washing your hands in the correct way. 

  1. Wet Your Hands: Begin by thoroughly wetting your hands with clean, running water. Adjust the water temperature to your comfort.
  2. Apply Soap: Dispense an adequate amount of soap onto your palms. Lather your hands by rubbing them together, ensuring you cover all surfaces. Don’t forget to clean the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub for 20 Seconds: To ensure optimal cleanliness, scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. An effective way to time this is by humming the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  4. Rinse Thoroughly: Hold your hands under running water to rinse off the soap and loosened dirt and germs.
  5. Dry Completely: After rinsing, use a clean towel or an air dryer to dry your hands thoroughly. Remember, damp hands can harbour bacteria, so it’s crucial to ensure they’re completely dry.

Strengthening Your Immune System: A Holistic Approach to Health

While handwashing is a crucial practice, it’s important to recognize that potential sources of contamination are omnipresent. Strengthening your immune system is equally vital to fortify your body’s defence against minor encounters with pathogens. A balanced diet rich in nutrients, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management are essential components of immune system support. By adopting a holistic approach to health, you empower your body to fend off illnesses and maintain optimal well-being.

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The statistics are undeniable – hand washing education significantly contributes to healthier individuals and communities. By reducing illnesses, boosting immunity, and fostering a culture of hygiene, we create a safer and more vibrant environment for everyone. Embrace the 5-step hand washing process, share the knowledge, consider the effectiveness of double handwashing, and fortify your immune system through holistic wellness. Take pride in being an advocate for better health through proper hand hygiene.


Q. How often should I teach my children about hand washing?

Ans. It’s important to regularly reinforce the concept of hand washing with children. Make it a part of their daily routine, especially before meals and after using the restroom.

Q. Can hand washing education reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses?

Ans. Absolutely. Hand washing education plays a vital role in reducing the transmission of harmful bacteria and pathogens, thereby lowering the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Q. Can using hand sanitizer replace hand washing education?

Ans. While hand sanitizers can be convenient, they are not a complete substitute for hand washing. Hand washing with soap and water remains the gold standard for effective hygiene.


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