Hand Hygiene - protect yourself and others

Hand Hygiene - protect yourself and others

Consumer information

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Cleaning your hands with soap and water or with a waterless hand rub, helps prevent the spread of germs that cause infections such as influenza and gastroenteritis.

Many germs can survive for hours on surfaces and be picked up on your hands without you knowing. If you then touch your nose, eyes, mouth or anything that goes in your mouth, the germs can get inside your body and make you sick. You could also unknowingly spread these germs to other people.

Cleaning your hands at home

When you are at home, wash your hands with soap and water:

  • before handling or preparing food or drinks, or handling kitchen utensils
  • before eating or drinking
  • after going to the toilet or changing nappies
  • after smoking
  • after using a tissue or handkerchief
  • after handling rubbish or working in the garden
  • after handling or touching animals
  • after coming into contact with anyone who is sick, including children
  • when your hands are visibly dirty.

When your hands are not visibly soiled you can use a waterless hand rub, which is particularly convenient where soap and water facilities are not available.

Visiting a healthcare facility

Clean hands are especially important when you are visiting a hospital, a community health centre or GP clinic or people who may be vulnerable to infection and illness.

Make sure you clean your hands before and after the visit, with either soap and water or a waterless hand rub.

Take care of your hands

If the skin on your hands get dry and cracked, it’s harder to keep them clean. To help keep your skin healthy, regularly use a moisturiser on your hands.

What is the best way to clean your hands?

You should routinely clean your hands by washing them with soap and water. Waterless hand rubs can be used when you visit someone in hospital or visit a doctor’s surgery. The alcohol in hand rubs can kill germs effectively and safely but they are not designed to clean dirt off your hands.

Using soap and waterUsing waterless hand rubs
  1. If possible, remove rings and watches and ensure clothing is above your wrists.
  2. Wet your hands with warm water.
  3. Apply one pump of liquid soap or rub bar soap over your wet hands, and lather well for around 15 seconds.
  4. Rub the lather over the front and back of your hands, over and between your fingers and fingernails, and around your wrists.
  5. Rinse well under running water and make sure all soap is removed.
  6. Dry your hands thoroughly patting dry with paper towels, or at home using a towel. Air driers can also be used to dry your hands.
  1. If possible, remove rings and watches and ensure clothing is above your wrists.
  2. Squirt enough hand rub onto your cupped hands to cover the surfaces of both of your hands
  3. Rub the hand rub over the front and back of your hands, over and between your fingers and fingernails, and around your wrists.

September 2019