How to wash your hands the right way and do your bit against Coronavirus spread

If you're worried about catching Coronavirus – or any other cold or virus – here's what you need to know to protect yourself and others

Washing hands
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're worried about contracting Coronavirus, the first line of defence is washing your hands. This is not just important for your own health, but to help limit the spread of the virus to other people. And all the more important if you are to be the lifeline for someone who needs to self isolate. If they are staying in, you need to wash your hands properly before taking them any groceries or provisions.

Follow this quick guide to find out how Coronavirus is spread, and how to wash your hands, with official NHS advice, to minimise the chances of getting it.

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How is Coronavirus spread?

The NHS advice is that because it's a new illness, we still have limited information on how it is spread. However, similar viruses are spread in cough droplets, so it's safe to assume that these are the greatest risk to catching it. If the saliva of an infected person ends up on anything you touch, your hands will then be carrying the virus. Touching your face is a sure way to infect yourself, but washing your hands frequently – especially before eating – will get rid of the virus.

Can Coronavirus live on surfaces?

While the NHS says it's very unlikely that Coronavirus can be spread through things like packages or food, if you touch something (anything) that's been coughed on by someone else who's infected, then touch your hands to your face, you're at a higher risk than if you've observed good hygiene before touching your face again. 

Equally, if you're coughing or sneezing into your own hands (Coronavirus or not), it's safe to assume that if you wash them immediately, or use a hand sanitiser if there's no hot taps and soap to hand, you'll be protecting others from your germs.

How to avoid catching or spreading the Coronavirus

This is the NHS's advice:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds – see how below.
  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work.
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Which hand sanitiser is best?

Current advice is that it should be at least 60% alcohol. There is a shortage in many high street shops but you can buy it on Amazon and expect speedy delivery. Or you can try our World Health Organisation-backed DIY hand sanitizer recipe and make it at home yourself.

Do I need anti-bacterial soap to wash my hands?

It's not necessary – this is a virus you're washing off, not a bacteria you're trying to kill. Don't share soap with infected people – or put your hands on the pump of a bottle of liquid soap. Don't pass around your hand sanitiser either.

Does the hand washing water have to be hot?

Hot water is ideal, warm water will do, and cold water will do if you're using the approved hand washing technique the NHS advises. 

How to wash your hands to stop Coronavirus spread

Use this technique below to two rounds of Happy Birthday (or just count slowly to 20). Below, there's a link to the NHS hand washing video, too.

1. Wet your hands with clean water and turn off the tap.

2. Apply enough soap to cover your hands, front and back, up to the wrists.

3. Rub your hands together, working up a lather.

4. Using one hand, rub the back of the other; clean in between the fingers and under your fingernails, too. Repeat with the other hand.

5. Rub the back of your fingers against your palms on both hands.

6. Now rub your thumb with your other hand (it's easy to forget this step). Repeat with the other thumb.

7. Don't forget the tips of your fingers – rub them on the palm of your other hand. Repeat with other hand.

8. Rinse your hands thorough with clean water – running water is way better than a standing bowl of water for obvious reasons.

9. Dry your hands completely with a disposable towel – or better still with a hand dryer or fresh air.

10. Used a disposable towel? Use it to turn off the tap and, if you're in a public place, to open the door to the toilet/washroom.