Washing your hands is the best way to prevent the spread of infections — and it only takes 15 seconds.
Use soap and water, an alcohol-based hand rub, or alcohol wipes to kill the germs that cause infections.
Why is hand hygiene important?
Prevents Hospital Infections
- In the United States, hospital patients get nearly two million infections each year. These can be life-threatening and hard to treat.
- All patients are at risk for hospital infections, but you can take action by asking both your health care providers and your visitors to wash their hands and also by practicing your own hand hygiene.
Makes a Difference in Your Own Health
- Hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infections, including the common cold, flu, and even hard-to-treat infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
When should hands be cleaned?
You, Your Family and Friends
- before preparing or eating food
- before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- before and after changing wound dressings or bandages
- after using the restroom
- after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- after touching hospital surfaces such as bed rails, bedside tables, doorknobs, remote controls, or the phone
Health Care Professionals
- every time they enter your room*
- before putting on gloves. Wearing gloves alone is not enough to prevent the spread of infection.
- after removing gloves
*If you already have an infection, health care professionals may take special measures (isolation precautions) to prevent the spread of your infection to others. They might enter your room wearing gloves, a gown, or a mask. They will have cleaned their hands before they put on gloves.
How should hands be cleaned?
With soap and water:
- Wet hands with warm water. Apply a nickel- or quarter-sized amount of soap to your hands and rub hands to form lather.
- Rub lather over all surfaces of your hands – tops, bottoms, in between fingers, and under the fingernails – for 15 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands with a paper towel then use the paper towel to turn off the faucet.
With an alcohol-based hand rub:
- Apply a nickel- or quarter-sized amount of hand rub to your hands.
- Rub product over all surfaces of your hands – tops, bottoms, in between fingers, and under fingernails.
- Continue rubbing until hands are dry. It should take about 15 seconds if enough hand rub was used to kill germs.
- You should not rinse hands or dry them with a paper towel.
With alcohol wipes:
- Remove a wipe from the pouch. Be sure to reseal the pouch so remaining wipes do not dry out.
- Rub wipe over all surfaces of your hands – tops, bottoms, in between fingers, and under fingernails – for 15 seconds.
- Allow product to dry. You should not rinse hands or dry them with a towel. Dispose of wipe in trash receptacle.