Wash Your Hands

Tips and Resources

Regular, thorough hand washing is always important, but especially during a pandemic. Explore the tips and resources below to teach kids how washing hands makes a difference, and to discover creative ways to help your family make this crucial protective measure a habit.

Tips

General

  1. Wash hands often and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds
  2. Remember to scrub under nails, in between fingers, and tops of hands
  3. Use a paper towel or your elbow to turn the water off after washing your hands
  4. If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  5. Place a dollop of sanitizer in your palm and rub it over the back and front of your hand and fingers, rubbing vigorously until dry
  6. Baby wipes are not an effective form of hand washing
  7. Wash immediately after coming inside
  8. Wash before eating meals or snacks
  9. Wash after using the bathroom, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  10. Model good handwashing behavior for others

For Teens

  1. Don’t assume that your teen washes his/her hands
  2. Empower your teen by stressing their role in preventing the spread of the virus
  3. Ask your teen to wash their hands when they get home and before snacks
  4. Pack hand sanitizer in your teenager’s backpack

For Kids

  1. Observe kids and help them wash until they learn this skill
  2. Have your child sing the ABCs or Happy Birthday twice while washing
  3. Consider a reward system for handwashing
  4. Try making handwashing into a game
  5. Hand sanitizers marketed as being “for kids” generally do not have alcohol in them are thus ineffective against the virus

For Infants and Toddlers

  1. Do not use hand sanitizer on an infant
  2. Keep hand sanitizer out of reach of young children. Call Poison Control if swallowed
  3. Wash infant hands at the same time as you would wash your own, such as before they eat and after arriving home from an outing
  4. Always wash your hands before touching your baby and require others to do the same

Articles

Videos

Activities

Frequently Asked Questions: Hand Washing

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Q.

My child refuses to wash their hands when we get home. How can I get them to use soap and water?

A.

Standing at a sink and scrubbing for 20 seconds can be boring for kids. It’s normal for them to want to go play or relax immediately after coming home. Like all habits, it may take some time to get used to doing this. Until then, try making hand washing fun with brightly colored liquid soaps, soap dispensers that make fun shapes, or have a kid favorite scent. You can also consider reward systems and sticker charts.

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Q.

Every time my child washes their hands with liquid soap, they tilt their hands and it runs into the sink. What can I do to make washing easier?

A.

Foaming soap is a great alternative to traditional liquid soap. Once in hand, it stays put and won’t slide off if the washer tilts their hands. It's also a great way to make washing more fun for young kids

Q.

Should I worry about washing my baby’s hands?

A.

You should wash your infant’s hands at the same times you would wash your own such as before they eat, after a diaper change, and after arriving home from an outing. You can also use disposable wipes for cleaning infant hands. Try the three towel method for washing infant hands. The first towel is damp and soapy, the second is damp for rinsing, and the third is for drying. Have all towels prepared before beginning.

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Q.

There are so many different types of hand sanitizer and soap at the store now, how do I know which one to buy?

A.

Check sanitizer bottles for the words “alcohol” or “alcohol-based”. Then look for a percentage listed on the active ingredients list of at least 60%. This will ensure you get the best sanitizer for stopping the spread of COVID-19. For hand soap, there is no evidence suggesting you must use one labeled “antibacterial”. Any soap used for 20 seconds with warm water should work for COVID-19.

Q.

I can’t find any hand sanitizer in store, can I make my own?

A.

The US Food and Drug Administration currently does not recommend making your own hand sanitizer. Homemade sanitizer may be ineffective or cause skin irritation. Many stores other than grocery stores and pharmacies now carry sanitizers such as office supply stores. Check around at less conventional stores for sanitizers if your local grocery store is out of stock.

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Q.

With all of the hand sanitizer and lack of play with other children, will my child’s immune system be compromised? How can I make sure their immune system is maintained?

A.

While this is a theoretical risk, there is no evidence to suggest that a short-term boost in hand washing reduces immune function. The same is true of social distancing, which has also not been shown to directly decrease immune function. The best way to promote a healthy immune system is to promote healthy habits such as a balanced diet and regular exercise.

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