Help stop the spread of coronavirus: 5 steps to proper handwashing

Handwashing is our first line of defense against disease, including coronavirus (COVID-19) and the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), washing your hands “is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.”

You’ve probably heard a lot about handwashing lately with the spread of COVID-19, but stick around. There’s a right way and a wrong way to wash your hands—and 95 percent of people are doing it wrong—according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health. If you’re spending any time at the sink, you might as well make your efforts worthwhile.

So what’s the right way to wash your hands—you know, the way that will actually remove the infectious germs you’re trying to avoid? The CDC recommends the following five-step method. (Don’t worry, it only takes 20 seconds.)

The real way to wash your hands

Step 1: Wet

Wet your hands with warm or cold water—yes, cold works too!—then turn off the faucet and apply soap.

Step 2: Lather

Rub your hands together with the soap to work up a lather. Remember to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails—germs love to hide in these places.

Step 3: Scrub

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Hint: time yourself by singing “Happy Birthday” or the chorus from Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.”

Step 4: Rinse

Rinse your hands well under running water.

Step 5: Dry

Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dryer. Don’t skip this step. Bacteria spread more easily when your hands are wet, so wiping them on dirty jeans or grabbing a door handle without drying your hands completely can undo the work you just did.

Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.