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Epidemic Control Toolkit
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34. Handwashing with soap

Last update: 2022-09-14


  • Washing your hands is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of many epidemics, especially diarrhoeal diseases.
  • Handwashing is easy and everyone (including children) can do it.
  • To be able to wash their hands, people need running water, liquid soap or ash, and paper towels.

When to wash hands

Wash your hands BEFORE: Wash your hands AFTER:
  •  Preparing or eating food. 
  • Treating a wound (yours or someone else’s). 
  • Caring for someone who is ill.
  • Breastfeeding.
  • Using the toilet. 
  • Washing or changing a baby or infant. 
  • Coughing or sneezing. 
  • Caring for someone who is ill.
  • Coming into contact with a sick person in an epidemic (see Action tool Handwashing in a highly infectious epidemic). 
  • Handling raw meat. 
  • Contact with animals (including pets). 
  • Handling rubbish or anything that might be contaminated.

How to wash hands

  • Wet your hands and rub them with soap or ash.
  • Rub all parts of your hands together for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Use lots of force (push your hands together hard) and remember to wash all surfaces, including the backs of the hands and between the fingers.
  • Rinse hands well so they are free of soap or ash.
  • Dry hands with a paper towel. If there is no towel, wave them in the air until they are dry.


handwashing with soap