HF 5236

The Power to Stop Infection Is in Everyone’s Hands

Hand Hygiene

Everyone has germs on their body. Some of these germs help keep us healthy, while some make us sick. When we have contact with people, animals, and objects, we pick up some germs and leave some germs. Sometimes we pick up germs that make us sick. Sometimes we leave germs that make others sick, even though these germs didn’t make us sick. 

While germs are spread by coughing and sneezing, most of the time they are spread by hand contact. The best way to stop the spread of germs is to clean our hands often. You can clean your hands by washing them with soap and water or using an alcohol hand rub. When you wash your hands with soap and water, the rubbing of your hands loosens many of the germs and the water rinses them away. When you use an alcohol hand rub, the alcohol kills many of the germs on your hands. Simple hand cleaning helps prevent the flu, common colds, and other infections. 

The providers and staff of UW Health are dedicated to keeping you safe while you are here. They know they should wash their hands or use alcohol hand rub often while they provide care for you, but there may be times when they forget. If you do not see your caregivers clean their hands when entering your room, please ask them to do so. It only takes a few words like these to support this healthy habit:

  • “Excuse me; did you clean your hands?” 

  • “I saw that you cleaned your hands, thank you!”

It is also important for family members and visitors to wash their hands when they visit you. They should wash their hands when they enter your room and leave your room. 

Keep in mind that objects such as doorknobs, keyboards, elevator buttons, and phones may carry germs that can make us sick. Since it is hard to avoid these objects, it is vital to clean our hands often. If you must stay in bed, please ask your caregiver for soap and water or alcohol hand rub to clean your hands.

How to Wash Your Hands the Right Way

  • Have a dry cloth towel near you before you start. Avoid using damp towels due to germs.

  • Wet your hands with water.

  • Put soap on your hands. Use liquid soap if you have it. Liquid soaps are better than bar soaps because germs can live on bar soap. If you use bar soap, put the bar on a rack between uses.

  • Rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds. You may say the ABCs or sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to make sure you’ve washed long enough.

  • Clean all parts of your hands, fingers, thumbs, nails, and wrists.

  • Rinse your hands well to remove soap.

  • Dry your hands gently with soft paper towels or a dry cloth towel. 

  • Use a towel or your elbow to turn off the faucet.

When to Wash Your Hands

  • When your hands are dirty

  • Before you fix or eat food

  • Before and after treating a cut or wound

  • Before putting in or taking out contact lenses

  • After touching raw meats like chicken or beef

  • After using the restroom

  • After contact with blood, urine, stool, vomit

  • After changing baby or adult diapers

  • After touching animals and pets

  • After touching garbage

How to Use Alcohol Hand Rubs

  • Put the alcohol hand rub in the palm of one hand.

  • Rub your hands together. Clean all parts of your hands, fingers, thumbs, nails, and wrists.

  • Rub your hands until they are dry. It should take 25-30 seconds to dry your hands.

When to Use Alcohol Hand Rubs

  • Anytime you are cleaning your hands when they don’t look dirty.

  • Before and after you have contact with someone who is sick.

  • After shaking or holding hands.

  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. 

Keeping Hands Healthy

Skin protects our bodies from chemicals and germs. To do this well, our skin must be healthy. Healthy skin is skin that isn’t too dry and doesn’t have cuts, scrapes, cracks, or rashes.  

Causes of Dry Skin include:

  • Cold weather

  • Low humidity or dry air

  • Being over 30 years old

  • Poor nutrition

  • Some medicines

  • Some illnesses

  • Washing hands often

  • Cleaning agents

To Keep Your Skin Healthy: 

  • Wash your hands with warm water, not hot. 

  • Rinse your hands well. Soap dries skin.

  • Pat your skin dry. Don’t rub it. 

  • Use lotions often. Putting lotion on skin when it is damp is helpful. 

  • Wear gloves and clothing to keep you warm when you are cold. 

  • Wear gloves to protect your skin when you do things like cleaning and working in the yard. 


Thousands of germs can live under and around fingernails. Be sure to clean areas under fingernails. Fresh nail polish does not result in more germs, but chipped nail polish may carry germs. Fake nails often have more germs under and around them than real nails do.