Image description. Better Health Channel logo End of image description. Handwashing – why it’s important A number of infectious diseases can be spread from one person to another by contaminated hands, particularly gastrointestinal infections, influenza and hepatitis A. Washing your hands properly can help prevent the spread of the organisms that cause these diseases. Some forms of gastroenteritis can cause serious complications, especially for young children, the elderly, or those with a weakened immune system. Drying your hands properly is as important as washing them.
Ima ge des crip When to wash your hands You should wash your hands thoroughly: • • • • • • • • • Before preparing food Before eating Between handling raw and cooked or ready-to-eat food After going to the toilet or changing nappies After smoking After using a tissue or handkerchief After handling rubbish or working in the garden After handling animals After attending to sick children or other family members. How to wash your hands properly To wash hands properly: • • • • • • • • • • Wet your hands with warm water.
Apply one dose of liquid soap and lather (wash) well for 15–20 seconds (or longer if the dirt is ingrained). Rub hands together rapidly across all surfaces of your hands and wrists to he lp remove dirt and germs. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails. If possible, remove rings and watches before you wash your hands, or ensure you move the rings to wash under them, as microorganisms can exist under them. Rinse well under running water and make sure all traces of soap are removed, as residues may cause irritation.
Pat your hands dry using paper towels (or single-use cloth towels). Make sure your hands are thoroughly dry. Dry under any rings you wear, as they can be a source of future contamination if they remain moist. Hot air driers can be used but, again, you should ensure your hands are thoroughly dry. At home, give each family member their own towel and wash the towels often. Handwashing – why it’s important Page 1 of 4 How to wash and dry hands with liquid soap and water (Click to open larger image) Use warm water
Cold water is better than no water at all for a one-off hand wash, but should not be used for routine handwashing. Soap lathers (soaps up) better with warm water. The active ingredients on the surface of the soap are released more easily, making them more effective in cleaning your hands of dirt, grease and oils, without stripping away the natural oils in your skin. Using cold or hot water can also damage the skin’s natural oils. Over time, this can cause dermatitis. Soap is important Soap contains ingredients that will help to: • • • Loosen dirt on your hands.
Soften water, making it easier to lather the soap over your hands. Rinse your hands, leaving no residues to irritate and dry your skin. Soaps can have different pH – they may be neutral, slightly alkaline or slightly acidic. That’s why some soaps irritate some people and not others. Perfumes in soap can be another reason why some people have skin reactions. Liquid soap is best Handwashing – why it’s important Page 2 of 4 Generally, it is better to use liquid soap than bar soap, particularly at work.
The benefits of liquid soap include: • • • • Hygiene – it is less likely to be contaminated. Right amount – liquid soap dispensers do not dispense more than required (more is not better). Less waste – it’s easier to use, with less wastage. Drop-in cassette dispensers use all the soap. Saves time – liquid soap dispensers are easy and efficient to use. Disposable liquid soap cassettes are convenient, as you do not have to wash and thoroughly dry the refillable container before refilling. If you want to use refillable cont