Protect Yourself and Prevent the Spread of Germs and Viruses

Proper Handwashing Can Reduce the Number of Harmful Microorganisms on Your Hands

Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect ourselves and families from getting sick. Germs are everywhere so you need to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to reduce the number of harmful microorganisms on your hands. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

While washing your hands seems like an easy, routine task, many people fail do it correctly or even at all. In fact, only 5% of people wash their hands enough to kill germs after using the restroom, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health.

Why Do We Wash Our Hands for 20 Seconds?

Lathering and scrubbing hands creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease, and microbes from skin. Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand, often in particularly high concentration under the nails, so the entire hand should be scrubbed. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water.

Why is Handwashing Important?

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Handwashing with soap removes germs from hands. This helps prevent infections because: People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it.

The Following are Instructions for Proper Handwashing:
  1. Wet your hands and apply enough soap to create a good lather.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, front of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. What equals 20 seconds? Sing the “Happy Birthday” song quietly in your head, from beginning to end, twice.
  4. Rinse your hands and wrists thoroughly under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean paper towel or air dry them.
Precautions to Take in Reducing Risk of Prevent Spreading Germs and Viruses

Wash Your Hands Before…

  • Preparing and eating foods
  • Taking care of someone who is sick
  • Treating a cut or wound
  • Drinking
  • Touching your mouth or face

Wash Your Hands After…

  • Using the restroom
  • Coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Handling garbage or trash
  • Taking care of someone who is sick
  • Treating a cut or wound
  • Touching and preparing foods, especially meats
  • Working, gardening, or playing outside
  • Changing baby diapers
  • Petting an animal, or touching animal food or waste
What are the Benefits of Handwashing?
  1. Creating a safer working environment for medical staff and the patients
  2. Prevention of diarrhea and uncomfortable intestinal diseases
  3. Avoidance of common eye infections
  4. Obstruction of respiratory tract infections

Coronavirus is one virus that is getting a lot of press. Check out the steps below and the Center of Disease Control website/links below for more information.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19 Illness by:
  • Washing your hands often
  • Avoid being exposed to this virus
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Avoid close contact
  • Put distance between yourself and other people
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick
  • Clean and disinfect (Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.) Options include:
  1. Diluting your household bleach. To make a bleach solution, mix:
  • 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water OR
  • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.

  1. Alcohol solutions. Ensure solution has at least 70% alcohol.
Other References:

Proper Handwashing for Caregivers, Elderly, Food Handlers and School Children:–consumer-sciences/family–consumer-sciences-special-topics/healthnutrition–food-systems/

Handwashing Video:


Show Me the Science – How to Wash Your Hands:

How to Protect Yourself:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds and stay safe! For more information contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.








Posted: March 19, 2020

Category: 4-H & Youth, Clubs & Volunteers, Disaster Preparation, Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: 4-H, Caregivers, COVID-19, Eldery, Farmers Markets, FCS, Flu, Food Handlers, Food Safety, Handwashing, Health And Wellness, Hygiene, School Children, UF/IFAS Extension, Viruses

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories