A 90-second video on how to master the 20-second hand-wash

Regular hand-washing has been recommended
Regular hand-washing has been recommended by public heath officials as a way of preventing the spread of pathogens, including the coronavirus.
Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images

Editor's note from NPR: It has come to our attention that a video previously included in this post may have presented an incomplete technique for proper hand-washing. The video has been taken down while we assess whether other information should be added.


You've probably heard it a jillion times by now: One of the best ways to prevent infection from the new coronavirus is to wash your hands to get rid of any pathogens you may have picked up.

The thing is, many people don't wash their hands correctly. They may think 10 seconds is enough. Nope. They may just rub a little soap between the palms and ignore other parts of the hand. And if you do a slipshod job, the coronavirus pathogens will still be on your hands when you're done. And if you touch your hands to your face — as humans do about 200 times a day — those pathogens can infect you via eyes, nose or mouth.

It doesn't matter whether the water is warm or cold, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on its website. And antibacterial soap works just as well as regular soap. But running water is key, since standing water could be contaminated.

You need to clean the areas between your fingers, as well as your thumb and the backs of your hands, Dr. Mark Gendreau, the chief medical officer at Beverly Hospital in Massachusetts, told NPR. Scratch your palms in order "to scrub the fingertips and to get some soap under the initial part of the nail," he adds.

Wash for at least 20 seconds — singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice or the alphabet song at a reasonable pace will usually get you to that benchmark.

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