How to wash your hands properly

Good handwashing practice is your first line of defence against illnesses like coronavirus and food poisoning.  But while we may think we are careful enough, research shows that many people’s hands are still far from clean, even though they feel they’ve washed them properly.

A quick rinse under the tap doesn’t actually get rid of dangerous germs. This diagram shows which parts of their hands people often miss.

Most people don’t dry their hands either, but leaving hands damp actually helps germs to breed in the moisture, and allows them to spread more easily onto whatever you touch next.

So before handling food, don’t just splash ‘n’ dash - wash your hands thoroughly.

The handwashing steps

1. Soap

Wet your hands thoroughly under warm running water and apply soap to them.

2. Rub

Rub your hands together to make a lather. Spread it over all areas of your hands and wrists, making sure it covers

  • your palms
  • the backs of your hands
  • your wrists
  • your fingers and
  • fingernails  

Rub between each finger and round your thumbs. It’s this action which helps the soap dislodge and remove dirt and germs.

3. Rinse

Rinse the soap off completely under a stream of clean running water.

4. Dry

Dry your hands thoroughly, using a clean hand towel or hand dryer, not a tea towel or your clothes.

When to wash your hands

  • Before handling, cooking or eating food, and after handling raw meat or eggs
  • After activities such as going to the toilet, changing nappies and petting animals
  • More frequently when anyone in your household is sick

Watch the video


Handwashing for children

If you have children, it's important to teach them how to wash their hands properly.

To make learning good handwashing habits fun for your child, we’ve created the Rufus handwashing programme. There's a storybook, a sink poster, colouring-in sheets, character cut-outs, and videos about how and when to wash their hands.

Sing the Rufus song twice while washing your hands together to make sure they're sparkling clean!


Get the Rufus handwashing resources