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Hand Cleaning

One of the quickest and easiest ways to fight the flu is to clean your hands! Hand washing can help to protect you, your family members and others from spreading everyday illnesses at home, school or work.

This information is not intended to address specific hand decontamination requirements for health professionals caring for patients. If you are a health care professional, see CDC's Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings.


Remember to wash your hands when they are visibly dirty and before:

A pair of hands with soap suds, being washed under a faucet.
  • Eating or preparing food
  • Caring for someone who is sick
  • Visiting a Veteran’s hospital room

Hand washing is also important after:

  • Going to the bathroom
  • Caring for someone who is sick
  • Blowing your nose
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Touching garbage
  • Handling raw meat
  • Touching an animal
  • Handling animal waste
  • Changing diapers or assisting someone with toileting
  • Leaving a Veteran’s hospital room

When using soap and water, remember to:

  1. Wet hands with clean, warm water.
  2. Add soap to make lather.
  3. Rub your palms, backs of your hands, and between your fingers.
  4. Rub your hands for a minimum of 15 seconds.
  5. Thoroughly rinse your hands.
  6. Use a clean paper towel or air dryer to dry yours hands.
  7. Turn off the faucet with a paper towel to avoid recontamination.

No soap and water? No problem!

While washing with soap and water is the best way to clean your hands, using alcohol-based hand cleaners also can be effective in preventing the spread of many germs.

When using alcohol-based hand rub, remember to:

  • Use one that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Apply the cleaner to the palm of one hand, but ensure you have enough for both hands.
  • Rub your palms, backs of your hands, and between your fingers.
  • Continue rubbing until hands are dry (approximately 30 seconds).

Remember… Clean hands help keep germs away. For more information, see CDC’s Wash Your Hands or watch VA's fighting germs video (Length: 02:49).

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