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How To Clean & Disinfect Hands

Posted by Jamie McKay on January 3, 2019

When visiting someone in a healthcare facility, it is most important to practice proper hand hygiene to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections.

Although your hands may look clean, germs are invisible and we can easily pick up bad germs from contact with other people or objects. 

For patients, sometimes the body's natural defence system can be weakened which makes it harder to protect yourself from germs and infection. 

Healthcare-acquired infections can result in severe illness, longer stays in hospital, slower recovery, or complications after surgery. 

When should I clean my hands?

It's most important to clean your hands during the following times:

  • When entering/leaving a ward or healthcare facility
  • After going to the toilet
  • After blowing your nose
  • After smoking
  • After handling/petting animals
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating food
  • When your hands are visibly dirty


What should I clean my hands with?

When your hands are visibly dirty, the best methods to clean them are with soap and warm water or anti-bacterial wipes. If your hands are visibly clean but you are doing one of the above, you can use soap and water, hand wipes, or an alcohol-based hand gel such as this Sursol Hand Sanitiser.

How should I clean my hands?

Follow the step-by-step guide below for at least a minute: 

  1. Rub hands palm to palm
  2. Rub the back of each hand with the palm of the other hand with fingers interlaced
  3. Rub palm to palm with fingers interlaced
  4. Rub with the back of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked
  5. Rub each thumb clasped in the opposite hand using rotational movement
  6. Rub tips of fingers in the opposite palm in a circular motion
  7. Rub each wrist with the opposite hand


With soap and water:

  • Wet hands with water first
  • Apply soap and follow the above guide for at least 40-60 seconds
  • Rinse hands with water
  • Pat hands dry with paper towels and dispose of


With hand wipes:

  • Take a wipe and unfold
  • With the wipe between your hands, follow the numbered guide for at least one minute
  • Dispose of the wipe in the appropriate waste bin


With hand gel:

  • Squirt enough gel for both hands
  • Rub hands together following the step-by-step guide for at least 30 seconds
  • Allow hands to air dry
  • Moisturise after if needed


Healthcare staff should follow the same guidance for hand hygiene as patients and visitors but should also perform it at the 5 moments recommended by the World Health Organization:

  1. Before touching a patient
  2. Before a procedure
  3. After a procedure or exposure to bodily fluids
  4. After touching a patient
  5. After touching a patient's surroundings


They should also perform it before and after putting on gloves. Healthcare workers should always perform it in front of you, if you are worried that they haven't, feel free to remind them.