• Mayo Clinic Minute

    Mayo Clinic Minute: The proper way to wash your hands

Dec. 4–10 is National Hand-Washing Awareness Week. It's a good reminder that frequent hand-washing remains one of the best defenses against getting sick with the flu or COVID-19.

But to be effective, it has to be done the right way. Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert, offers a demonstration on hand-washing.

Watch: Dr. Gregory Poland demonstrates the proper way to wash your hands.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:13) is in the downloads at the end of this post.  Please courtesy: "Gregory Poland, M.D. / Vaccine Research Group / Mayo Clinic." Read the script.

To properly wash your hands, follow these steps:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water — either warm or cold.
  • Apply any kind of soap and lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, palms, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse well.
  • Use a clean towel to turn off the faucet and dry your hands.

Dr. Poland says it's important to keep in mind that the faucet and door handles may be contaminated, so once you have washed your hands, use a towel to avoid contacting any of these surfaces as you exit the bathroom.

Medical illustration of what soap does to kill the coronavirus disease COVID-19 when washing hands