The coronavirus outbreak has made us more conscious of the importance of good hand hygiene than ever before. While pre-coronavirus most of us thought a quick wash of the hands was fine, there’s now a need to make sure hand washing is done thoroughly and effectively in order to reduce the risk of us passing the infection to ourselves or others.

So what is the correct way to wash our hands effectively to help us stay safe? 

1. Wet your hands thoroughly and use warm water

2. Wash hands for 20 seconds

NHS and World Health Organisation guidance is that we must wash our hands for 20 seconds to kill germs and viruses – another way to think of this is the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

20 seconds is a long time when standing at a sink and frankly, there’s only so many times we can sing Happy Birthday to ourselves! So here are some other options: 

  • The chorus of Dolly Parton’s Jolene (one of our all-time favourites)
  • The “We will, we will rock you” line from Queen’s classic song, sung four times (not too fast)
  • Or, for the kids, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, sung all the way through once (or twice if your little ones tend to speed-sing).
  • Finally, if your children need reminding to wash their hands, there is now a handwashing version of the Baby Shark song called #BabySharkHandWashChallenge, which uses the familiar tune to tell children to wash their hands (doo doo doo doo dooodooo), grab some soap (doo doo doo doo dooodooo), rub their hands, and so on. Approach this last one with caution – like the original, once in your head, this song won’t leave!

3. Take care to wash every part of your hands – including wrists and each finger

Apply enough soap to cover your hands, and then wash every part of your hands, rubbing them together, washing the backs of your hands, each finger in turn, cleaning under your nails and making sure you remember to wash your wrists. When you’re done, rinse them thoroughly under warm running water.

4. Don’t forget to dry them properly

Dry your hands on a paper towel or clean towel if possible, or air dry if a clean towel isn’t available, avoiding hand dryers that can pass on bacteria.1 Drying hands properly is important because infection is more likely to be passed on through wet or damp hands than dry ones.

5. Get into the handwashing habit

Make sure you wash your hands on a regular basis, in particular before or after going outside your house, after using the toilet or changing a nappy, before eating or handling food, and after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing.  The NHS advises us to wash our hands more often during the coronavirus outbreak, even if you’re simply staying at home.3

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs. However, if you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol and then wash your hands at the next opportunity.

We hope these tips help you stay safe and well.  For more information on good hand hygiene, please visit the NHS website.


1 University of Connecticut School of Medicine 2 Miryam Wahrman, William Paterson University, author of “The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World 3 NHS


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