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Skip Navigation LinksPennsylvania Department of Health > My Health > Infant and Children > Kids Health > ABC's of Hand Washing


"Did you wash your hands?" Bet you have heard that one before. Why are adults so hung up on hand washing? What’s with all that soap and hot water?

Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Think about all of the things that you touched today - from the telephone to the toilet. Maybe you blew your nose in a tissue and then went outside to dig around the dirt. Whatever you did today, you came into contact with germs. It's easy for a germ on your hand to end up in your mouth and make you sick. Think about how many foods you eat with your hands.

You can't walk around inside a bubble all day long, but you can wash your hands with some bubbles. So those germs don't get a chance to make you or someone else sick. When germs go down the drain, they can't make anyone sick.

So when are the best times to wash your hands?
  • before eating or touching food 
  • after using the bathroom
  • after blowing your nose or coughing
  • after touching pets or other animals
  • after playing outside
  • after visiting a sick relative or friend 

Now you have the when and the why of hand washing. But did you know that a lot of people don't know how to get their paws perfectly clean? The next time you're told to step up to the sink and scrub up, remember these handy hints:
  1. Wet your hands with warm running water.
  2. Add soap, then rub your hands together, making a soapy lather. Some soaps come in cool shapes and colors or smell good. Do this away from the running water for at least 15 to 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing the ABC’s). Be careful not to wash the lather away.  Wash the front and back of your hands, as well as between your fingers and under your nails where germs like to hide.
  3. Rinse your hands well under warm running water.  Let the water run back into the sink, not down to your elbows.
  4. Dry hands thoroughly with a clean towel, then turn off the water with a clean paper towel and dispose of it in a proper receptacle.
  5. When there is no soap and water close by. Ask Mom or Dad for a wet wipe or colorful cool hand rub (hand sanitizer).