Hand washing 101

Hand hygiene

Cleansing hands, known as hand hygiene, is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infections. This includes the common cold, flu and even infections that are hard to treat such as Methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA).

  • Perform hand hygiene regularly and after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, before eating, before and after changing dressings or bandages, and when entering or leaving your room.
  • If you cannot get to a sink, please ask your health care provider for a waterless alcohol hand rub or wipes.

To wash your hands:

  • Use soap and warm, running water.
  • Wet your hands.
  • Put some soap on your hands.
  • Rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds. Cover all surfaces, including between your fingers and under fingernails.
  • Rinse with running water.
  • Dry your hands with a paper towel.
  • Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.

To use alcohol hand rub, dispense a walnut-sized amount into your hand and rub until dry before touching anything.

Hand hygiene

When should I wash my hands?

Wash your hands regularly and after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, and before eating.

    Related resources

    Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, How to Prevent Infections During Your Hospital Stay, ic-ah-14015. Information adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Minnesota Department of Health, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the Surgical Care Improvement Project Partnership, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
    First Published: 11/01/2004
    Last Reviewed: 11/01/2016