Identifying Common Hand Washing Mistakes

Valley View dermatologist

Even as labs across the world continue to search for answers, we still don’t currently have an available treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. At this time, our best chance of avoiding the coronavirus remains staying focused on prevention. Along with wearing a face covering and practicing social distancing while visiting your Valley View dermatologist or the grocery store, hand washing remains one of the most effective practices for staying healthy.

While the importance of hand washing has recently become the renewed focus for lowering our risk for COVID-19, the practice has always offered a means of reducing our risk for contracting other respiratory diseases, such as the flu and common cold, by roughly 20 percent.

Unfortunately, effectively washing our hands is not as easy as many of us would assume. Even in medical setting, health professionals still clean their hands less than half of the number of time they probably should. To make sure we get the most protection out of our hand washing, it’s important we practice the habit correctly and avoid some of the more common mistakes:

Not Washing Your Hands Enough

During the course of an average day, our hands have many opportunities to touch items that could in turn expose us to germs, including the coronavirus. Once our fingers pick up the invisible microbes, we can easily transfer them to the body by touching our eyes, nose, or mouth.

Hand washing offers the best options for removing the germs and microbes our hands pick up. Always make sure to wash your hands after:

  • Being in a public place where you might have touched items like a shopping cart, countertops, or door handles.
  • After sneezing or coughing.
  • Before touching your face, especially the eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Before eating or preparing a meal
  • After using the bathroom
  • After touching a pet
  • After handling the trash

While most of these may seem obvious, there’s a good chance at least one of the items on this list wouldn’t send you to the bathroom to wash up.

Not Using Enough Soap

At a certain level, hand washing is little more than getting your hands wet if you don’t use enough soap. Start by wetting your hands with warm or cold water, and then apply a generous amount of soap. A nickel to quarter size amount of liquid soap is just about the perfect amount (don’t worry about whether your soap is antibacterial, as that doesn’t really do much). Once applied, spend a few seconds lathering the soap on your hands. By rubbing your hands together, you create friction that works to remove grease, dirt, and microbes from the surface of your hands.

Not Scrubbing Your Entire Hand

Properly washing your hands means cleaning all of the available surface area. Don’t forget to clean the back of your hands, between your fingers, and especially under your nails, an area where a lot of dirt and germs can accumulate. You may even want to consider keeping your nails short right now to make it easier to properly clean under them.

You Don’t Spend Enough Time Washing

To properly remove all of the dirt, grim, and germs that accumulate on the surface of your hands, you need to spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing. The song “Happy Birthday” provides a pretty good sense of just how long 20 seconds is, but you can always substitute a verse of another song instead.

You Don’t Rinse Well Enough

After spending all of that time scrubbing your hands clean, don’t skimp on the final step by not properly rinsing your hands. Make sure to hold your hands under running water until all of the lathered soap has been removed off of your hands. Removing any excess soap will also help to reduce any irritation your hands may feel from becoming overly dry.

Don’t Skip Drying Your Hands

Wet hands allow for the easy transferal of germs, so make sure to take just a few more seconds to dry them off. At home, simply use a clean, dry hand towel, and a paper hand towel or electric drier when out in public.


While it might not seem like it, properly washing your hands can be more complicated than many of us might think. Our Valley View dermatologist want to make sure that every one of our patients stay healthy during this uncertain time. That means taking a moment to relearn an old habit to make sure we all do it the right way, every time.