Mississippi State Department of Health

Handwashing for Health


Handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection.

Our hands bring us into contact every day with disease-causing bacteria and viruses, including those that cause flu. Frequent handwashing can remove or destroy these germs. It's a powerful tool against disease.

How to Wash

Thoroughly washing every part of the hands is essential. A proper handwashing takes at least 20 seconds.

  • Wet your hands under warm running water and apply some soap.
  • Lather up - apply soap and rub your hands together hard to scrub dirt and germs away.
  • Wash hands front and back, and between the fingers.
  • Wash around your wrists and under your nails.
  • Rinse well in warm water.
  • Dry your hands completely with a clean cloth or paper towel.


It's in Your Hands: Handwashing basics for kids and materials for teachers

When to Wash

You should wash your hands before:

  • Handling food
  • Setting the table
  • Eating
  • Treating a scrape, cut, or wound
  • Tending to someone who is sick
  • Putting in or taking out contact lenses

You should wash your hands after:

  • Going to the bathroom
  • Changing diapers
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Preparing food
  • Touching burns, cuts, or sores
  • Playing with pets or animals
  • Playing outside, to reduce exposure to lead in soil and dust
  • Handling dirty dishes, utensils, or touching cabinet tops where food is prepared
  • Being around someone who is sick
  • Taking out the garbage

Why Washing Works

You need all the steps above to make handwashing work its best for you.

Links referenced on this page
Flyers, posters and lesson plans    http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/14,6459,330,html ok

Find this page at http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/index.cfm

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