Hand-washing - a habit for life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 January, 2009, 12:00am

Keeping your hands clean is an easy way to avoid picking up nasty bugs and feeling under the weather

Flu season is upon us again. Although there's no foolproof way of avoiding colds or flu, washing your hands is the single most important thing you can do to keep germs at bay.

Every object or surface you touch, from door handles, money, toys, keyboards to phones, is teeming with bacteria and viruses.

Depending on the surface, cold or flu germs can survive for up to 48 hours. It's thought that viruses live longer on things like plastic, metal and wood.

Once they're on your hands and fingers, it's easy for these germs to invade your body if you rub your eyes, or touch your nose or mouth. Our bodies provides a perfect environment for bugs to grow and multiply.

The correct way to wash your hands

Wet your hands with warm water and apply liquid soap, then lather well

Rub your hands vigorously for at least 15 to 20 seconds

Scrub the backs of your hands, your palms, your wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails

Rinse well under running warm water

Dry your hands with a hand dryer or disposable towel

Use a paper towel to turn off the tap

Antibacterial soaps are no better

According to the US Centres for Disease Control, antibacterial soaps are no more effective at killing germs than ordinary soap.

In fact, antibacterial soaps can lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to antibacterial soaps, making it harder to kill these germs in the future. It is the process of scrubbing hands with soap and rinsing with water that removes bacteria from your hands.

Best to use a hand sanitiser

If you're not near a tap, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is the next best solution. Use one that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.

Apply about a teaspoon of sanitiser onto the palm of your hands, rub your hands together, covering all the surfaces of your hands until they're dry.

Now take our hand-washing quiz

1 Rinsing my hands with water will kill germs.

a. true

b. false

2 I only need to wash my fingers with hot soap

and water to kill germs.

a. true

b. false

3 It's OK to dry my hands on my clothes.

a. true

b. false

4 I should wash my hands for at least 15 seconds.

a. true

b. false


1. false; 2. false; 3. false; 4. true