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Hand Washing

Hand washing is the single most important prevention step for reducing disease transmission.

How to Wash Hands

  • Wet hands with running water; place soap in palms; rub together to make a lather; scrub hands vigorously for 20 seconds; rinse soap off hands.
  • If possible, turn off the faucet by using a disposable paper towel.
  • Dry hands with a disposable paper towel. Do not dry hands on clothing.

Hand-Washing Agents

  • Liquid soap dispensed by a hand or foot pump is recommended.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used if soap and water cannot be made available and are effective against multiple common disease agents (e.g., shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter). However, they are ineffective against certain organisms (e.g., bacterial spores, Cryptosporidium, and certain viruses).
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with a concentration of 60% or higher to be effective against common disease agents.
  • Hand sanitizers are less effective if hands are visibly soiled. Therefore, visible contamination and dirt should be removed to the extent possible before using hand sanitizers.
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