Emergency / Disaster

7 Handwashing Steps to Prevent Infections

Grainger Editorial Staff

Use these handwashing steps to keep germs out of your department, cut down on sick days, and even lower your facility’s annual healthcare costs.

Everyone understands the health and hygienic importance of washing your hands. Handwashing is especially important in working environments to prevent infections from spreading. Employees who don’t take the time to follow careful (and frequent) handwashing procedures can:

  • Infect themselves with germs (by touching the eyes, nose, or mouth)
  • Contract a serious respiratory illness or communicable disease
  • Make the people around them sick
  • Contribute to issues like increased antibiotic resistance
  • Get and give food poisoning
  • Collect dirt and grime in your nails

Calling handwashing the “single most important procedure for preventing the spread of infection,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that many people either skip this step or don’t handle it properly. “Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community,” the agency states, “from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.

When to Wash Your Hands

Frequent hand-washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness. The Mayo Clinic advises washing hands when they are visibly dirty, or:


  • Preparing food or eating
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses


  • Preparing food
  • Using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal, animal feed, or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick person
  • Handling garbage

"Handwashing is still the best way to prevent colds and other respiratory and infectious diseases that are transmitted by hand to mouth or hand to nose/eye contact," Samuel N. Grief, MD, told Everyday Health. "Soap acts as a vehicle to trap the germs (i.e. viruses, bacteria) that are loosened by the act of rubbing your hands together under water. These germs can then be rinsed away by the water."

If soap and/or water aren’t available, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers instead. “If you're using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol, the CDC advises), apply product to one palm, rub your two hands together,” Everyday Health notes,making sure to reach all surfaces, and continue rubbing until hands are dry.”

Hitting Germs Right Where It Hurts

If your employees aren’t washing their hands correctly or frequently enough, it’s time to remind them of the importance of doing so—namely because it keeps germs out of your department, cuts down on sick days, and can even lower your firm’s annual healthcare costs.

Hang signs in strategic areas (in restrooms, near sinks, etc.) reminding employees to wash their hands. Get supervisors onboard with reminding their team members of the importance of good handwashing, and invest in hand soap, single-use towels, hand sanitizer, and air hand dryers that make it easy for your employees to comply.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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