< Hygiene

How do you wash your hands?

Text updated on 2020-05-04

Our hands are always in action and every five minutes they touch our nose, mouth, or eyes where the virus can enter! Regular hand washing is an essential barrier against the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.


Get rid of viral particles that may cover the surface of your hands, so that you do not contaminate yourself and others by touching objects such as keys, money, door handles. A study found that, on average, we touch our mucous membranes on our face (eyes, nose, mouth) once every five minutes!


How to wash your hands properly

Step by step :

Hands are a very effective vehicle for transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.


- as soon as you arrive home from work, from shopping, from going out, after taking out the trash... ;

- after coughing or sneezing;

- before taking care of a child, a sick, elderly or disabled person ;

- after every trip to the bathroom;

- after putting away the groceries;

- before cooking and before meals

- after touching animals

- after touching a doorknob, elevator buttons, or the buttons on the coffee machine.


You should wash your hands as if you've just cut a chilli pepper or are about to change a contact lens:

- soap and water, preferably liquid soap (which stays clean in its bottle, unlike bar soap especially when kept in a dish);

- rub hands for at least 20 seconds;

- don't forget your fingertips, the spaces between your fingers, fingernails, wrists;

- rinse thoroughly;

- Dry with a clean towel (to be changed regularly) or a single-use towel.

Alternative to hand washing :

Use a hydro-alcoholic solution to disinfect them. With the hydro-alcoholic gel, rub well for about 30 seconds and wait until your hands are dry. Hydro-alcoholic solutions disinfect but do not clean, so they cannot replace washing with soap and water when your hands are dirty.

If you have a choice between soap and hydro-alcoholic gel, choose the soap option since hydro-alcoholic gels, as long as they remain on the skin, are potentially more harmful than soap and tend to dry out the skin.

Pitfalls to avoid

- wash without soap!

- touching your phone or a (dirty) doorknob right after washing

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An article summarizing information on coronavirus resistance and effective antiseptics:

Geller, C., Varbanov, M., & Duval, R. E. (2012). Human coronaviruses: insights into environmental resistance and its influence on the development of new antiseptic strategies. Viruses, 4(11), 3044-3068.

A study conducted on American students indicates that, on average, a person touches their face 23 times per hour and the mucous membranes of the face 12 times per hour, i.e., once every 5 minutes.

Kwok, Y. L. A., Gralton, J., & McLaws, M. L. (2015). Face touching: A frequent habit that has implications for hand hygiene. American journal of infection control, 43(2), 112-114.

Further reading

Why put on a mask?

How do you make a hydroalcoholic solution?