Think you know how to wash your hands, something you’ve been taught to do since your potty training years? Washing your hands is your front-line defense against a host of illnesses, not just coronavirus, but be honest: You’re likely not doing it long enough or often enough.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should be washing your hands:

Before, during and after you handle food

Before you eat

Before and after caring for a family member who is vomiting or has diarrhea

Before and after treating a wound


After going to the bathroom (even if you think you didn’t actually get anything on you. We see you. Wash ’em.)

After changing diapers or cleaning up after a child who’s used the bathroom

After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing

After touching pets, animal feed or pet waste

After handling pet food or treats

After handling garbage


Just as important as washing often enough is how you’re actually doing it. Here’s the CDC’s advice:

• Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. It’s OK to turn the tap off to save water. There’s very little data to suggest that a significant number of germs get transferred from the tap to your hands (which you’re washing anyway).

• Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Why? Lathering and scrubbing creates friction, which helps get rid of dirt, grease and microbes from skin. Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand, often in particularly high concentration under the nails.

• Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You’ve all seen the joke-y posts on Facebook or Twitter on how to mentally count 20 seconds, so pick your poison: Sing your ABCs, hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice, recite Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy (now there’s someone who understands the importance of adequate hand-washing), belt out “I Will Survive” like Gloria Gaynor, who did us all a great public service by making a hand-washing Tik Tok:

• Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

• Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. Why? Germs can be transferred more easily on wet hands, so dry those puppies.

And while it might be easier and faster to use hand sanitizer, that’s not as good as good old hand-washing with soap. For one, you might not use enough or wipe it off before it dries. Sanitizers also don’t work as well on grease, heavily soiled hands or pesticides.

Have more questions about how to protect yourself or your loved ones from coronavirus? Send them to and we’ll try to answer them.

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