How long do you need to wash your hands to kill germs?

The chillier months typically bring an influx of patients with respiratory infections to the hospital, but getting sick isn’t inevitable. One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs is simply to wash your hands—but it only works if you do it properly. If you do become seriously ill this season, the emergency care doctors at MountainView Hospital can help you feel well again quickly.

The length of time you should wash your hands
Rinsing your hands isn’t enough to get them clean. To get rid of disease-causing germs, you’ll need to scrub them thoroughly with soap and water.

It takes at least 20 seconds of scrubbing to get your hands clean. This is about the length of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.

The right way to wash your hands
Use running water and plain soap to get your hands clean. Get your hands damp, then add soap and lather up. Scrub all areas, including the following:

  • Under the fingernails
  • Between the fingers
  • On the backs of the hands
  • Around the wrists

After you’ve scrubbed all areas of your hands for at least 20 seconds, hold them under the running water and continue to scrub until the soap is all washed off.

The way soap gets rid of germs
It’s a common misconception that soap kills germs. It actually improves your ability to scrub them off your hands so they’ll end up down the drain instead of in your body. Essentially, soap reduces the ability of germs to stick to your skin, but it’s the scrubbing action that really gets rid of them.

Antibacterial soap can prevent bacteria on the skin from replicating, but most of the ingredients have been recently banned because public health experts discovered they did more harm than good. Plus, good old-fashioned soap, water and scrubbing are the best tools to get rid of germs .

MountainView Hospital is your partner in health. From our emergency care doctors to our bariatric weight loss specialists, our entire team in Las Vegas works together to provide the patient-centered care everyone deserves. A friendly member of our nursing staff is available at (702) 962-5021 to provide physician referrals.

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