Common mistakes we make while cleaning hands

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

As part of the preparation for taking care of patients with coronavirus infection, health care teams in our hospital underwent a simulation-based session called Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training.

Cleaning hands was one of the significant components of the whole process. Starting from the outside of the patient’s room to going in and then coming back outside, there were five times that hands had to be cleaned for twenty seconds each time.

We all know to spend at least twenty seconds cleaning our hands, but we might not be following all the critical steps involved. I wanted to share what we learned so that everyone can use them in their daily practice.

Most common errors observed during the training session were:

• not using enough amount of soap or sanitizer

• not using enough force and friction while rubbing

• neglecting to clean in between the whole length of the inside of fingers

• failing to clean the wrists

• forgetting to clean the fingernails

• not devoting enough time to the entire process

Here is the step-by-step description of the actual process:

Pump the soap or sanitizer bottle at least 2–3 times to get enough amount of the cleaning agent.

First, start with the front of the hands. With back and forth movement, rub your palms, fingers, and wrists with reasonable force.

Second, repeat the same action on the back of hands, fingers, and wrists, again maintaining enough friction. Staying on the back, rub in between the fingers covering the whole length from the tip to the base.

Third, encircle the entire thumb with the other hand and twist the thumb. Repeat on the other side.

Fourth, clasp both hands so that distal half of the front of the fingers is opposed to each other (see picture). Grind them holding tight.

clasping hands

Fifth, pinch your fingers together, push them against the center of the palm of the other side, and twist them to clean the fingernails.

Once done, rub your hands to dry off the sanitizer or use a towel if you are using soap and water. This whole process should take at least 20 seconds. It takes a few times to follow the steps but becomes routine rather quickly.

Stay safe, everyone!!




Physician and faculty at Stanford school of Medicine

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Sarita Khemani, MD

Sarita Khemani, MD

Physician and faculty at Stanford school of Medicine

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