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Hand hygiene: The importance of proper hand-washing

Written By: Simone Sonnier, UT Physicians | Updated: May 5, 2022
man washing hands

In recognition of World Hand Hygiene Day, review these expert hand-washing tips.

A reoccurring theme that rose in popularity to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is hand-washing, among other safety measures. However, we shouldn’t just be washing our hands — we should be practicing proper hand hygiene by scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.

Fozia Steinkuller, MPH, CIC

“Hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent the spread of germs,” said Fozia Steinkuller, MPH, CIC, certified infection preventionist at UT Physicians.

The two main ways to perform correct hand hygiene are by washing your hands with soap and water and by using an alcohol-based sanitizer. Anytime your hands are visibly soiled, it’s best to use soap and water. The entire process should take anywhere from 40 to 60 seconds. After applying soap and water, be sure to wash the entire surface of your hands. Common areas that are missed during hand-washing are the thumbs, fingertips, and between fingers. Once your hands are rinsed, use a single-use towel to dry them off and turn off the faucet.

Alcohol-based sanitizers are good to use on the go or when you can’t get to soap and water immediately.

“The sanitizer you use should contain at least 60% alcohol to be considered effective. When applying, use enough to cover the hands up to the wrist and rub until completely dry,” said Steinkuller. “It’s also important to note that alcohol-based sanitizers do not create an antibiotic resistance.”

By practicing proper hand hygiene, we can help significantly reduce the spread of contagious viruses.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.