an initiative of ACCORD


Global Handwashing Day 15 October

Hand hygiene – WHY?

"Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others." (Source 1)

Hands can spread pathogens to:

  • other parts of your body, e.g via the “faecal-oral” route
  • other people
  • objects (“fomites”), from where they can be picked up by other people

Did you know…

Every 3 minutes a child brings their hand to their nose or mouth?
Every minute, an adult office worker touches as many as 30 objects?
(Source 2)

It is important to wash your hands:

  • BEFORE contact with someone who is vulnerable to illness.
  • BEFORE handling contact lenses, oral medicines, or inserting tampons or suppositories
  • BEFORE and AFTER eating or handling food
  • BEFORE and AFTER touching a wound
  • AFTER coughing, sneezing & blowing your nose
  • AFTER handling garbage or touching the bin
  • AFTER touching animals
  • AFTER changing a nappy
  • AFTER using the toilet or bathroom - this applies (men especially) even if you don't touch the facilities, since you can spread bacteria from your own body to things that you touch after leaving the bathroom
  • AFTER handling money

A 2009 Australian study found that 29% of men and 8% of women didn’t wash their hands after using a public toilet. (Source 3)

In recognition of the importance of hand washing, the first Global Handwashing Day was held in 2008. This annual worldwide initiative focuses on children and schools, aiming to raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap and to encourage this culture around the world.

Hand hygiene – HOW?

Rubbing your hands together with soap and warm water dislodges and breaks down the grease and dirt that carry most germs.

The Australian Department of Health recommends rubbing the hands together for 15-20 seconds. And not just the palms - pay particular attention to the backs of the hands, fingers, nails, tips and webbing between fingers. After lathering, rinse your hands thoroughly and pat dry. Wet hands help spread bacteria from surfaces that you touch to your hands. (Source 4)

Soaps are available in many forms. There are bar, gel, liquid and foam soaps, which come in a multitude of fragrances to leave the hands smelling pleasant. Soaps can also be anti-bacterial or have added moisturisers. Other types of hand cleansers are handwipes and alcohol-based hand rubs, which can be a convenient option “on the go” as they do not need water.

It is also important to maintain skin health as dry, cracked and bleeding hands are more vulnerable to pathogens. This kind of skin damage occurs more frequently in cold, dry winter weather, and when you have to wash your hands frequently.

Many different hand moisturising creams, lotions, ointments and oils are available: different fragrances or fragrance-free, for sensitive skin, medicated and antibacterial, and with specific natural extracts such as aloe vera and vitamin E. These products help maintain your skin’s heath and leave you with soft, smooth feeling hands.

Looking after your nails is also important. Whether you prefer to have long or short nails, dirt and bacteria can lodge underneath and be passed on to others through direct contact or via other surfaces. Regular cleaning and nail trimming will help keep your nails hygienic and looking good.

Source 1: Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, "Handwashing: Clean hands save lives",

Source 2: Dr Charles Gerba, “Reinventing Hygiene for the 21st Century"

Source 3: Sydney Morning Herald October 15, 2009 “One-third of men fail loo hygiene test'”

Source 4:


useful stuff...

The human body may be home to 10 times as many bacteria as human cells. Researchers believe the human body has over 500 bacterial species living in and on it.7 Trouble getting a date? 75% of women in a New York survey said they would only date a guy who showered daily.8   20-30% of handbags have faecal bacteria on the underside.22 In 2006, women spent an average of 54 minutes and men 43 minutes per day on personal hygiene.9
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