Regular handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and preventthe spread of germs to others. It's quick, it's simple and it can keep us all from getting sick. Many diseases and conditions are spread from people not washing their hands with soap and clean, running water. Handwashing is a win for everyone - except the germs.

Why wash your hands?

Germs are everywhere

Feces (poop) from people or animals is an important source of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhea. These kinds of germs can get onto hands after people use the toilet or change a diaper, but also in less obvious ways, like after handling raw meats that have invisible amounts of animal poop on them. Germs can also get onto hands if people touch any object that has germs on it because someone coughed or sneezed on it or ifit was touched by some other contaminated object. Handwashing can prevent 30% of diarrhea-related illnesses and 20% of respiratory infections.

Reduce antibiotic resitance

Preventing sickness reduces both the amount of antibiotics people use and the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will develop.Antibiotics often are prescribed unnecessarily for these health issues. Reducing the number ofthese infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics—the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world.

Other facts

  • People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it, allowing germs to get into the body and make us sick
  • Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them
  • Germs can multiply in some types offoods or drinks
  • Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails,table tops, or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands
  • 96% of people stated that they wash their hands after using a public restroom but only 66% of people actually wash their hands after using the restroom
  • Women consistently wash their hands more than men with a rate of 93% of women to 77% of men 

Steps to wash your hands

  1. Wet your hands
  2. Apply soap
  3. Lather and scrub for 20 seconds
  4. Rinse for 10 sectonds
  5. Turn off the water
  6. Dry your hand

Don't forget to wash between your fingers, under your nails and the tops of your hands.


Handwashing fact sheet (print-only)