Why the CDC recommends you wash your hands a certain way

As coronavirus spreads, keeping your hands clean might be your best defense

6 Handwashing Mistakes That Help Coronavirus Spread

There are numerous reasons to wash your hands throughout the day, and you can add “avoid getting coronavirus” to the list.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta suggests you wash your hands not just after going to the bathroom, but also while preparing food, before and after caring for a sick relative, before and after treating a wound, after blowing your nose, after touching garbage, and other situations.

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How you wash your hands is just as important as when you do it, the CDC states. Here are the five steps to fighting germs and the CDC's science behind them.

1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.

Clean, running water should be used because hands can become contaminated if placed in a sink or basin of standing water someone else has used. The CDC says the temperature of the water matters very little, but warmer water might irritate the skin more and is more environmentally costly.

Turning off the faucet is just a water-saving move.

Using soap is important because it lifts "soil and microbes from skin, and people tend to scrub hands more thoroughly when using soap, which further removes germs," the CDC wrote. There are no studies showing antibacterial soap is better than plain soap, so don't feel you need to go buy it.

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2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.

Lathering and scrubbing your hands causes friction that lifts dirt and microbes from your skin. Microbes are on all hand surfaces and in higher concentrations under the nails. So it’s important to clean your entire hand.

3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.

If your hands are very dirty, scrub longer, the CDC says. Although few studies have found a definitive length of time to wash your hands, 15-30 seconds removes more germs than shorter periods. If you don’t have a timer, hum the “Happy Birthday” son from beginning to end twice.

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4. Rinse you hands well under clean, running water.

Thoroughly rinsing off the soap reduces skin irritation and gets the germs off your hands. As in No. 1, avoid water that’s been standing in a sink or basin, because you’ll likely recontaminate your hands.

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5. Air dry hands or use a clean towel

Germs can be transferred more easily when hands are wet, studies have found, so you should dry them. The CDC says there is no clear, best way to do this, but most studies say using a clean towel or letting hands air dry is best.

Remember, the CDC says this is how you should wash your hands all the time and not just because of coronavirus fears. Clean hands are a good defense against flu and other illnesses, too.