Video 9 of 61
3 min 2 sec
English, Español
English, Español

Hand washing is the most important and effective infection control technique. And while all of you already wash your hands regularly, in this lesson we're going to teach you the proper ways to wash and disinfect your hands to greatly reduce your chances of contamination.

When Should You Wash Your Hands?

Wash your hands whenever they're visibly dirty, but also:

  • Before having any contact with clients/patients
  • Before putting on your gloves
  • Before performing any procedures
  • After contact with a client's skin, bodily fluids, excretions, non-intact skin, wound dressings, and contaminated items
  • After using the bathroom
  • After touching garbage
  • After removing your gloves

Proper Hand-Washing Technique

Pro Tip #1: In a world filled with technological advances and new and improved items at every turn, the old standard when it comes to handwashing is still the superior choice – soap and water – as it's still the best way to reduce the number of germs in most situations.

  1. Use a disposable paper towel to turn on the sink faucet.
  2. Thoroughly wet your hands.
  3. Apply a generous amount of soap.
  4. Rub your hands together, covering all the surface areas – backs of hands, between fingers, under nails – for at least 20 seconds.
  5. Rinse your hands under the running water.
  6. Dry your hands with a disposable paper towel.
  7. Use that towel to turn off the sink faucet.

If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers will quickly reduce the number of microbes on your hands, but it doesn't eliminate all types of germs.

Proper Use of Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizers that are alcohol-based are great options if soap and water aren't available. But make sure you work them into your skin as thoroughly as you would wash your hands with soap and water.

  1. Fill the palm of one hand with hand sanitizer, as you'll need enough to apply a very generous layer to both hands.
  2. Spread the hand sanitizer around your palms, top of hands, between fingers, and work it into every crevice or wrinkle, including cuticles, nail beds, and under rings. Don't ignore your wrists and try to cover all areas.
  3. Continue to massage the hand sanitizer into your hands for 20 seconds.

Pro Tip #2: All medical personnel should have a watch with a second hand, as there are numerous situations where you'll need to record the exact time or use that second hand to keep track of the time – like to see when 20 seconds has passed when using a hand sanitizer.

On that note, if you suspect that your watch may have become contaminated in the course of helping a patient or cleaning up a scene, you're going to need to put that watch into the bloodborne equivalent of the concussion protocol.

This protocol could be different for everyone, based on their own unique work practice controls that are covered under the bloodborne pathogens rule. So, know the specifics of your situation and workplace.

However, in general, you'll want to remove the watch using proper personal protective equipment and sanitize and disinfect it appropriately.

A Word About Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is equipment that is appropriate for your job duties and should be available to you in your workplace. A PPE includes all specialized clothing, equipment, and supplies that keep you from coming in direct contact with infected materials. These include CPR breathing barriers, disposable gloves, gowns, masks, shields, and protective eyewear.

Disposable Latex-Free Gloves

Wear disposable, latex-free gloves for all patient contact. There are powder-free gloves available as well as disposable latex-free gloves made of vinyl. Also consider nitrile gloves, as many consider them the preferred option when working with bloodborne pathogens.

Eye Protection

Safety glasses with side shields are a great way to protect your eyes in certain situations. If there's a risk of splashing or spraying of bodily fluids, use goggles or a full-face shield, as they'll greatly reduce the risk of contamination of the mouth, nose, and eyes.

CPR Breathing Barriers

CPR breathing barriers include resuscitation masks, shields, and BVMs. CPR breathing barriers help protect you against disease transmission when performing CPR or giving ventilations to a patient.


A mask is a personal protective device worn on the face that's designed to cover at least the nose and mouth, and which helps to reduce the risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles, gases, and vapors. A high-efficiency particulate air mask will filter out at least 95 percent of airborne particles. Remember that masks must be fit-tested to be effective.


In situations where there are large amounts of blood or other possibly infectious materials, consider wearing a disposable gown. If your clothing becomes contaminated, remove it and shower as soon as possible. And wash the clothes in a separate load.