Disinfecting shared surfaces helps prevent virus transmission.

Disinfection 101: Learn the Right Way to Prevent COVID-19 and Other Viruses

With fears of COVID-19 sweeping the world, we’re hearing constant admonitions to wash our hands frequently. But many people don’t actually wash their hands as thoroughly as doctors recommend.

The RIGHT Way to Wash Your Hands

1. Wet your hands – with warm water if possible – and apply a good dollop of soap. If you have antibacterial soap, great, but if you don’t it’s okay, some experts say regular soap is just as good.
2. Rub your hands together, really scrubbing them, both front and back and up over the wrists. Think of how you wash when you’ve got garden dirt or something sticky on your hands and wash them that way, even if they look clean.
3. Rub under your nails; use a nail brush if possible.
4. Time yourself: Sing happy birthday, twice through – this is the 15-20 seconds you need for a thorough wash. (Hint: This is a great trick to teach kids.)
5. Rinse your hands well under running water.
6. Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer.
7. If you’re drying with a paper towel, use the towel to turn off the faucet.
8. Use the towel or your sleeve to avoid touching the door handle as you leave. For push doors, if you don’t have anything with you, push with your knuckles.

When You Can’t Get to a Sink

When you can’t wash your hands, use alcohol-based gel hand sanitizers or hand wipes instead. Carry one or both with you, and keep them in your car or purse. If you’re using a gel sanitizer, you don’t need to use water. The alcohol in the gel kills viruses and bacteria on your hands.

Here’s the RIGHT way to use antibacterial gel:

1. Apply a nickel-size amount of product to the palm of one hand.
2. Rub the gel over all over your hands and fingers for about 20 seconds.
3. Keep rubbing until your hands are dry.

Disinfect Shared Surfaces

When it comes to preventing virus transmission, wiping down surfaces that others have touched is also key. Carry antibacterial wipes with you and wipe down shopping cart handles, armrests, airplane tray tables, doorknobs, and other surfaces that other people have touched.

Unfortunately, family and household transmission is high with viruses, so vigilance is needed at home, too. Use disinfectant cleaning products to clean kitchen and bathroom counters, tables, and other surfaces that everyone touches. Don’t forget toilet flush handles and lids and drawer pulls as well as doorknobs.

More Ways to Protect Yourself

Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. If you use a tissue, wash your hands afterwards.
Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home and rest when you’re sick – you’ll get better faster and protect others
Suggest a high-five or pat on the shoulder rather than a hug or handshake

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.