Wash your hands!

close up of woman's hands washing her hands in sink

It‘s a simple act, but washing your hands frequently with soap and water plays a big role in keeping you and those around you healthy. It kills germs and keeps you from spreading illness.

Times when it’s especially important to wash your hands include:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • When you are caring for someone who is sick or injured
  • After using the toilet or changing diapers
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching or caring for animals
  • After touching garbage

Believe it or not, there is a “right” way to wash your hands so that you can kill the most sickness-causing viruses and bacteria.

  1. Wet your hands with clean running water.
  2. Add soap and rub all over your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails to make a good lather.
  3. Continue this for 20 seconds (many people sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice as a timer).
  4. Finally, rinse your hands well and air dry or use a clean towel.

If your hands aren't visibly dirty, and you can't get to water, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.


The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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