Six stage hand washing techniques

Written by aleksandra ozimek
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Six stage hand washing techniques
Wash fingers, nails and palms thoroughly to remove germs. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Hand washing is a vital, everyday task that you should practice several times daily to help prevent infection and the spreading of germs. It is especially important that hands are washed correctly, and not just wet for a few seconds. Always wash hands before a meal, after using the bathroom, after touching germ-infested public places --- such as doorknobs, computer keyboards or bus poles --- and before touching your face. The Six Stage Hand Washing Techniques show the proper washing of the hands. The technique was initiated by the UK's Stoke on Trent Community Healthcare Service, which specialises in health services for the local community, including hand hygiene policy in public.

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The Procedure

The Six Stage Hand Washing Technique differ from regular hand washing, in which hands are wet and rubbed palm to palm for a few seconds, because it shows that all parts of the hands should be rubbed thoroughly using soap and water, without a spot being missed. Normally, important parts of hands are missed, such as the tips of fingers, the thumbs and the areas between fingers. The six Stage Technique helps decontaminate hands and reduce infection. These techniques are based on the original technique from 1978 developed by Ayliffe et al, authors of the "Principles and Practice of Disinfection, Preservation & Sterilization," and are often cited when it comes to hand disinfection.


To wash hands thoroughly, you will need warm running water, paper towels and liquid soap. Prepare the paper towels before starting to wash hands. That way, you can turn off the faucet without touching it directly with your hands. The faucet carries many bacteria since this is the area you touch with your dirty hands when turning on the water to wash them. Do not use nail brushes, unless they are disposable or new, during this routine since they store bacteria.

The Techniques

Turn on the faucets with your elbows if possible, or with your hands. Wet hands and apply liquid soap. Wash hands by rubbing them with liquid soap and warm running water using the following technique. Each step consists of five backward and forward strokes:

  1. Rub palms against each other.

  2. Rub the back of each hand by placing the right palm on top of the back of the left hand and vice versa.

  3. Rub palms together while interlacing the fingers together.

  4. Interlock hands and rub the backs of fingers against the opposite hand.

  5. Rub the thumbs by clasping each thumb in the opposite hand and rubbing rotationally.

  6. Rotationally rub tips of fingers against palms.

After Washing

After completing the Six Stage Hand Washing Techniques, rinse hands thoroughly under running water. Then, turn off the faucets using either paper towels or your elbows. Dispose of any used paper towels. Dry hands using a clean paper towel instead of a cotton towel and dispose of it. Make sure to not touch the garbage can when disposing of the towel. If you have a door to open, use another paper towel to open the doorknob, and dispose of it once you are out of the bathroom.

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