Apple Magazine

It’s always a good time to wash your hands

It also helps to sing along as you lather

Singing while you’re sudsing helps you wash your hands for the recommended 20 seconds. 

May 2011

When you come inside. Before you eat. After you eat. After using the washroom. Before making a meal. After coughing or sneezing into your hand. At school, work or play.

Any time, anywhere is a good time to wash your hands, because handwashing is the number one way to prevent the spread of germs and the illnesses these germs can cause.

"Our hands are our guides through life—think of all the things they touch in a day," says Linda Lovatt, a Community Health infection control professional with Alberta Health Services. "We want them clean because they help us get to so many places and help us do so many things."

The best way to wash your hands is with soap and water for 20 seconds. In Woody Allen's 2009 movie Whatever Works, comedian Larry David's character sings Happy Birthday to Me to time his handwashing. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or reciting the alphabet work equally well.

Technique is as important as timing—Lovatt says "slip, slap, slop" under water is not enough. You'll want to vigorously wash your (or your young child's) palms, between your fingers, back of hands, thumbs, wrists, fingertips and nails. Antibacterial and anti-microbial soaps aren't necessary; regularly washing with soap and water works perfectly fine.

Don't forget to keep sinks and soap dishes clean, and change your hand towels daily, every few days or as they get dirty. Plus, a little hand cream will help prevent chapped hands, a concern for many people in Alberta's typically dry climate.

And, in a pinch, alcohol-based hands rubs can work in some situations. If hands are visibly soiled, however, Lovatt advises they'll need a good wash with soap and water—accompanied by the song of your choice.


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