Note: Your progress in watching these videos WILL NOT be tracked. These training videos are the same videos you will experience when you take the full Bloodborne for Body Art program. You may begin the training for free at any time to start officially tracking your progress toward your certificate of completion.

Handwashing is the single most important infection control technique. And while you may think you already know how to wash your hands properly, the techniques you'll learn in this lesson will be much better suited to keeping you safe in your workplace.

When exactly should you wash your hands?

You should disinfect or wash your hands whenever they are visibly dirty or contaminated. You should also wash your hands:

  • Before any contact with clients or patients
  • Before putting on gloves
  • Before performing any procedures
  • After taking gloves off
  • After using the bathroom
  • After touching garbage
  • After contact with clients or patients and especially after contact with:
    • Non-intact skin
    • Bodily fluids
    • Excretions
    • Wound dressings
    • Contaminated items

How should you practice proper handwashing?

Pro Tip #1: When it comes to properly disinfecting your hands, new and improved doesn't exist. Washing your hands with soap and water is still the best way to reduce the number of germs in most situations.

But what if you don't have access to a sink, hot water, and soap?

In these situations, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a great second option and can quickly reduce the number of microbes on your hands in many situations.

Warning: While alcohol-based sanitizers are a great option in the absence of a nearby sink, hot water, and soap, they will not eliminate all types of germs. So, if it's just a matter of a slight inconvenience, washing your hands with soap and water is worth that inconvenience.

How should you properly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer?

The technique is quite simple and there are just three important points to keep in mind:

  1. You need enough hand sanitizer to fill the palm of one hand.
  2. Spread the sanitizer everywhere on your hands – between your fingers, in every crevice and wrinkle, under any rings you have on, into your cuticles, under nail beds, around your wrists, and so forth.
  3. Work the sanitizer into your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds or until your hands are dry.

Pro Tip #2: Make sure to follow your own policies and procedures as outlined by your individual employer or your industry, as indications can be different for when the use of alcohol-based sanitizers are deemed appropriate.

What if you're wearing a lot of jewelry or a watch that you suspect has been contaminated?

In certain cases, or with certain individuals, removing jewelry and a watch will be required before cleaning and disinfecting your hands. If this is the case, make sure you remove these items using personal protective equipment and store them together someplace safe – more as it relates to the spread of infection, not as it relates to the items themselves.

After cleaning your hands, you can return to those items and sanitize them as necessary, following the engineering controls and work practices covered under OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen Rule.

How should you properly wash your hands using soap and water?

Again, the technique is quite simple. It's just a matter of following the proper guidelines:

  1. Use a disposable paper towel to turn the faucet on.
  2. Thoroughly wet your hands with water.
  3. Apply a good amount of soap.
  4. Rub the soap into your hands for at least 20 seconds, just as you did with the alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering all areas including the backs of your hands, under fingernails, between fingers, and so forth.
  5. Rinse your hands off under running water.
  6. Dry your hands using disposable paper towels.
  7. Use that disposable towel to turn the faucet off and discard the towel when done.

Pro Tip #3: If you're concerned about wasting water when using a sink with manual faucet controls, you can always ask a coworker to help turn the faucet on and off for you.