skip to content, health centers and clinics, search, accessibility statement


Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent illness.

See specific information for food handlers, schools and health care workers.

As basic as it seems, handwashing is one of the most effective ways you can stay healthy and prevent transmission of harmful germs. Even though most of us know when to wash our hands, studies show it happens too infrequently. The consequences are contaminated food, surfaces and objects that can infect us and the people around us.

Proper handwashing techniques

  • Wet your hands with clean, warm running water and add soap.
  • Rub your hands together and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 15 seconds (about the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice).
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Wash your hands

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Handwashing vs. alcohol-based sanitizers

Antibacterial gels should not replace regular handwashing. While effective, alcohol-based sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs, such as the virus that causes norovirus. Alcohol-based sanitizers are not effective on visibly dirty hands. Antibacterial lotion is not allowed under state law to substitute for handwashing for a food handler.

Food Handlers
Schools and Child Care
Health Care Workers