Time and time again, we have been taught that hand washing is the basic step — and the bare minimum — in practising good hygiene. But as current events are showing us, this everyday habit can be life-saving.

As the world battles wave after wave of COVID-19, proper and frequent hand washing remains one of the simplest and most powerful ways to kill harmful viruses and bacteria. If we all wash our hands regularly with soap and running water, good hand hygiene can control the spread of the virus and curb infections. Proper hand washing starts with each and every one of us, and it’s one of the simplest, but most effective ways we can stop the spread of COVID-19.

How Hand Hygiene Reduces the Spread of Disease

By now, you already know the importance of good hand hygiene. But are you doing it correctly? It’s not enough to wash your hands: you need to do it properly.

While soap and water are accessible to most people, many still struggle to wash their hands properly. In outdoor locations and events, a portable sink is beneficial to maintaining hand hygiene. Alternatively, it’s also a good habit to keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers handy to quickly kill germs.

When hand washing is correctly practiced, it is one of the simplest but most powerful ways we can prevent illnesses. The combination of clean, running water and antibacterial soap can easily kill some of the most dangerous pathogens, viruses and bacteria that cause highly communicable diseases ranging from the common cold to potentially deadly illnesses like COVID-19. Up to 16% of these respiratory infections can be prevented by hand washing alone, including 1 in 3 diarrhea-related illnesses.

When and How to Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands thoroughly can eliminate harmful bacteria spread through various activities. Proper and frequent hand washing reduces the risk of contamination and illness, especially when coming in contact with frequently touched surfaces. But do you know when and how you should wash your hands? Check out this general before and after guide:

Wash Your Hands Before:

  • Eating
  • Handling raw ingredients and preparing food
  • Treating wounds
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses

Wash Your Hands After:

  • Eating
  • Shaking hands with other people
  • Going to the washroom
  • Treating wounds
  • Disposing garbage
  • Blowing your nose
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Touching public and frequently touched surfaces, like door knobs and handles

To eliminate harmful bacteria from these activities, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly. For effective hand washing, use clean, running water and soap. Follow these basic steps:

  1. Rinse your hands with warm water
  2. Apply soap
  3. Rub your palms together and interlace your fingers
  4. Rub the back of your hands and scrub the base of your thumbs
  5. Rinse off and dry your hands with a clean towel

Hand Hygiene Tips for Every Situation

Hand hygiene should be practiced all the time, everywhere. Aside from remembering the basics of hand washing, it’s also important to practice good hygiene habits in places you frequent and where the risk of contamination and bacterial spread is high.

Hand Hygiene At Work:

  • Keep your workstation clean
  • Schedule deep cleaning and sanitation of the entire workplace at least once a month
  • Install antibacterial door handles to improve hygiene
  • Provide hand sanitizer in washrooms and at entrances and exits to reduce contamination through frequently touched surfaces.

Hand Hygiene in Restaurants:

  • Make sure that employees wear appropriate protective gear, including gloves and face masks
  • Sanitize cardboard products and implement hand hygiene measures for touching these surfaces
  • Improve washrooms to ensure that the plumbing system is working, and restock hand soap regularly
  • Install a portable sink indoors and outdoors to reap benefits like increased availability of hand washing stations, higher frequency of hand washing, and good hand hygiene habits among patrons and staff.

Hand Hygiene in Hospitals:

  • Sanitize hands after touching patient treatment areas, instruments and surroundings
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer and rubs along with regular hand washing
  • Install motion-sensitive faucets and hand washing scanners to limit contact on surfaces
  • Promote regular hand washing and good hygiene habits.

Practice Good Hand Hygiene Habits

There are many ways to practice good hygiene habits, especially in different places and throughout different activities. While the basic rule is to wash your hands with soap and water, make sure to keep in mind all the other ways you can protect yourself by practising proper hand hygiene whether you’re at work, eating or in high-risk environments, as well as before and after daily activities.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to be in a washroom or kitchen to maintain good hand hygiene habits. Keep hand sanitizer close by when you’re in busy, high-contact locations, and look into alternatives to traditional sinks. Taking these steps can greatly improve our response to the current pandemic, and prevent life-threatening infections.

For example, portable sinks provide numerous benefits — chief among which is easy access to proper hand washing even without a traditional plumbing system. Portable sinks can be installed in various indoor and outdoor locations. When using a portable sink, follow the tips we’ve set out here, and remember to clean your hands thoroughly to remove dirt and bacteria.