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Proper Handwashing Saves Lives: Try These Tips

A cute little girl and her mother are washing their hands. Protection against infections and viruses.

In the United States, a full week is dedicated to increasing awareness among people about handwashing and its importance. Proper handwashing has been proven to save lives. It keeps the spread of contagious diseases at bay and helps protect you and others from diarrhea, pneumonia, and other harmful bacterial diseases. Also, frequent handwashing has been linked with a lower risk of respiratory infections. So, to prevent infectious diseases from spreading, awareness about the importance of handwashing is crucial.

History of Handwashing and Proper Handwashing Technique

It all began when a Greek historian observed that diseases can spread from person to person, around 400 B.C. But it wasn’t until 1843 that doctors officially announced the contagion-spreading potential of dirty hands. And so, doctors began to wash their hands.

Doctor  showing proper handwashing at medical clinic sink.
In 1843 Doctors Officially Announced The Contagion-Spreading Potential Of Dirty Hands So They Started Washing Their Hands (Image Source: Shutterstock)

The father of hand hygiene, Ignaz Semmelweis, was a Hungarian doctor who first noticed the harm caused by doctors running around in maternity wards after performing an autopsy. He concluded that this post-autopsy particle exposure was the reason behind increased fatality in doctor/medical student–run maternity wards, as compared to the midwife-run wards.

And so, doctors began to wash their hands. Nurses followed their lead in 1860 on the suggestion of the esteemed British nurse, Florence Nightingale. However, this was limited to a small group only. The general public refused to adopt a similar habit. Proper handwashing was at a standstill for at least a century.

Consequently, healthcare-associated infections continued until the 1980s. This eventually led to the formation of the first official, nationally accepted and practiced set of guidelines related to hand hygiene. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention accepted the importance of handwashing at last.

Since then, hand hygiene has been gaining more and more importance, thanks to advancement in medical science and research. Now experts are trying to find a way to make proper handwashing common and practiced by everyone in the world.

But what exactly counts as proper handwashing? According to the WHO, the five-step handwashing method is the most effective. Using warm water, wet your hands and apply soap. Lather the soap under your fingernails, on the back of your hands, and between your fingers. Next, scrub your hands and your arms to your elbows. Rinse and dry with a paper towel or a blow dryer.

Hand-Washing Steps Using the WHO Technique

Here is a short two-minute Youtube video with a detailed method of proper handwashing as recommended by the WHO.

COVID-19: Clean Hands, Save Lives

The best and most frequently emphasized defense against COVID-19 is proper handwashing. Since the beginning of the pandemic, experts have been stressing the importance of keeping your hands clean. You will find the phrase “clean hands, save lives” almost everywhere, in one form or another.

High angle view of mother and daughter washing hands at sink in bathroom.
The Motto “Clean Hands, Save Lives” Is No Joke, Especially During A Global Pandemic (Image Source: Shutterstock)

The reason behind this is simple. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus with potential long-term effects, according to experts. It transfers through mucus or droplets when a person carrying the virus sneezes or coughs. And this happens mainly when you touch your face with unclean hands.

Indirect sources of transmission are doorknobs, railings, countertops, and frequently used, commonly shared items such as pens, files, and utensils. Direct sources of transmission include taking care of a sick person or shaking hands with a carrier. It is necessary to wash your hands before and after coming home, preparing food, eating, and going to the toilet.

So, if you’re wondering how to strengthen your immune system, don’t forget to wash your hands often. Its known importance has increased tremendously. The history of handwashing itself proves the effectiveness and importance of maintaining good hand hygiene.

The motto “clean hands, save lives’” is no joke, especially during a global pandemic. You never know if you are free from the virus; therefore, in order to protect your loved ones, you must exercise precautions. Wash your hands for twenty to thirty seconds, make sure to reach every part, including under the fingernails and in-between the fingers. Also, carry hand sanitizer with you at all times so you can clean your hands on the go.

You might be wondering which method is better—using hand sanitizer or washing hands. Experts agree that you should only use hand sanitizer when you cannot wash your hands with soap because soap is far better than a sanitizer. Nonetheless, use what you can, and keep your hands clean.

Participate in Spreading Proper Handwashing Awareness Efforts

You can help curb the virus and various infectious diseases by increasing awareness in your community. First, educate yourself and those in your inner circle. Read safety tips and the importance of proper handwashing. Learn how to wash your hands effectively by watching videos.

Man properly cleans hands with soap in bathroom.
First, Educate Yourself And Those In Your Inner Circle (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Share these tips with your friends and family on social media. If you own a website, set aside a section dedicated to it, with badges and banners to serve as reminders. Put up clean hygiene posters where it is allowed, in public places and malls.

Encourage people in your workplace to wash their hands frequently. Arrange free sanitization in places where it is difficult to wash hands. Post reminders of the benefits of hand hygiene. Put up “wash your hands” signs where possible. Call out those who do not practice regular handwashing and appreciate those who do.

Volunteering for awareness campaigns is also a great way of increasing awareness. Most communities have NGOs dedicated to public health and prevention, which you can join. To get people interested, share some do-it-yourself hand sanitizer recipes and ideas.

By taking these steps, you can protect yourself and your community from the debilitating attacks of contagious and non-contagious diseases. In ensuring a safe environment for all, the importance of handwashing cannot be overemphasized.


Every year, the U.S. celebrates National Handwashing Awareness Week in the first week of December, highlighting the incredibly useful benefits of frequent and proper handwashing. But you can celebrate handwashing benefits all year long, not just in December. Historical accounts have revealed that handwashing is the most cost-effective method of preventing diseases. And in the midst of a global pandemic, its importance has spiked tenfold. Help protect your community, spread awareness, wash your hands, and save lives.