How It Works: Washing Hands with Soap and Water

Components to washing with soap and water, the proper technique, and how washing with soap and water works.

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How it works


  • Three components:
    1. Soap
    2. Warm water
    3. Friction


  • Six steps:
    1. Wet hands with warm, running water.
    2. Add soap.
    3. Rub hands vigorously for 20 seconds.
      Wash all surfaces including:
      • Backs of hands
      • Wrists
      • Between fingers
      • Tips of fingers
      • Thumbs under fingernails—nailbrush is best
    4. Rinse.
      • Keep fingers pointing down
    5. Dry vigorously with paper or clean cloth towel.
    6. Turn off faucet with towel and open door with towel.

How it works:

  • The soap suspends the dirt and soils.
  • The friction motion helps pull dirt and greasy or oily soils free from the skin.
  • Warm running water washes away suspended dirt and soils that trap germs.
  • Final friction of wiping hands removes more germs.

Updated Monday, November 22, 2010 at 11:30AM