Wash your hands! (FN1444, Reviewed April 2020)

No matter the language, hand washing is an important step in the fight against germs. Follow these guidelines for proper hand-washing practices.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D. Food and Nutrition Specialist

Tera Sandvik, R.D., Former Project Coordinator

Availability: Web only

Did You Know?

  • One in three adults skips washing his/her hands after using the restroom.
  • One in four adults skips hand washing after changing a baby’s diaper.
  • Fewer than half of people wash their hands after handling pets or cleaning up after them.
  • Fewer than one in five washes his/her hands after handling money.

One in four foodborne illnesses is linked to improper hand-washing practices.

Germs are all around us. Some germs can make us very sick. Germs hide in bathrooms, kitchens, cafeterias, gyms and locker rooms. Others hide on pencils, doorknobs, computer keys, railings and video game controllers.

Frequent hand washing can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses, colds and many other “catchy” diseases. So, wash your hands after using the restroom, before and after food preparation, after handling pets, after changing a diaper and many other times.

Hand Washing Helps

In a study of 305 school children, researchers found that youngsters who washed their hands four times a day had 24 percent fewer sick days due to respiratory illness and 51 percent fewer sick days due to upset stomach.

The Naval Health Research Center conducted a study where 40,000 recruits were instructed to wash their hands five times a day. They found the rates of respiratory illnesses decreased 45 percent the next year.

Hand Washing Makes “Cent$”

Hand washing is one of the most important steps in preventing the spread of disease.

This inexpensive preventive measure could save you a visit to the doctor. Not only may hand washing save you money (and misery), it helps prevent missed workdays, school days and social activities.

How to Wash Your Hands

  • Wet your hands, add soap and lather up for at least 20 seconds. Scrub the backs of your hands, between fingers and under fingernails.
  • Rinse well with running, warm water.
  • Dry thoroughly with a clean towel. In public restrooms, use a paper towel to open the door as you leave the restroom. Not everyone washes his/her hands!

Wash Your Hands Chart

For more information 

Visit the NDSU Extension Web site:

(Click on “Health and Nutrition” for information and activities for parents and kids.)

Contact your county office of NDSU Extension.

Filed under: food, food-safety
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