“Proper hand washing with soap and water is probably the best thing you can do, but most people don’t wash their hands properly,” Reynolds says. So here’s how to do it the right way:
1. Run your hands under clean, running water (hot or cold)
2. Lather up your hands and fingers with soap
3. Scrub for 20 seconds (or as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice)
4. Rinse your hands with clean water
5. Dry your hands completely using a clean towel, a dryer, or let them air-dry.
“People don’t think about it, but hand drying is a very important step — if your hands are still wet, you will pick up and transmit germs very easily,” Reynolds says. So don’t leave with wet hands or just wipe them on your pants — air drying is better if you don’t have a clean towel.
Also, any soap will work as long as it lathers and successfully washes off the dirt and grime, says Tetro. Antibacterial soap doesn’t have any added benefit, and may actually promote antibiotic-resistant germs. In fact, one of the most common active ingredients marketed as antibacterial, triclosan, has been banned by the FDA for use in hand soaps and body washes (although it can be found in other products) because it’s not clear if it’s safe for everyday use and has been shown to be no more effective than regular soap at preventing illness.