Handwashing - The Most Effective Way to Prevent Disease Transmission

Washing your hands is the most effective thing you can do to avoid catching many diseases and prevent passing them along to others. Follow these tips to help yourself - and others - stay well.

Wash your hands

Whenever they

  • Come into contact with body fluids (including vomit and saliva)
  • Are visibly soiled

Before

  • Preparing food
  • Eating food

After

  • Using toilet facilities
  • Changing diapers or helping a child at the toilet
  • Blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • Touching raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs
  • Handling an animal or animal waste
  • Handling garbage

Before and after

  • Treating a cut or wound
  • Tending to the sick

Follow these steps for effective handwashing

  1. Wet hands with warm, running water
  2. Apply soap
  3. Rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds (sing "Happy Birthday" twice)
  4. Rinse hands well under running water
  5. Dry hands using a paper towel or air dryer
  6. Use a paper towel rather than your fingers to turn off the faucet

Find links to more posters and other handwashing resources.

Image credit: CDC/Kimberly Smith, Christine Ford

Last modified on 10/17/2016