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Infectious Disease

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999 Balmoral Street
Thunder Bay, ON
P7B 6E7
Phone: (807) 625-5900
Toll-Free: (888) 294-6630
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Clean Hands

Cleaning your hands is the most effective way to prevent infections. Taking 15 seconds to wash with soap and water will reduce your risk of getting a cold, the flu and other common infections.





Why is hand washing important?

Hand washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Good hand washing technique is easy to learn and can significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases among both children and adults in places such as schools, daycares and workplaces.



What steps should I follow you to wash my hands properly?

  • Wet your hands with warm running water.
  • Add soap, and then rub your hands together, making a soapy lather. Do this away from the running water for at least 15 seconds, being careful not to wash the lather away. Wash the front and back of your hands, as well as between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Rinse your hands well under warm running water.  Leave the water running.
  • Dry your hands with a paper towel.
  • Turn off the water with the same paper towel and throw it in the garbage.



Why is it important to use "good washing technique"?

By rubbing your hands with soapy water, you pull the dirt and oil from your skin. The soap lather traps any germs trapped in the dirt and oil.  Both are washed away when rinsing.



What type of soap should I use?

Any type of soap may be used. However, bar soap should be kept in a self draining holder that is cleaned before new bars are put out. Liquid soap containers should be used until they are empty and then cleaned before refilling.

To prevent chapping, use a mild soap with warm water; pat rather than rub hands dry; and apply lotion often.



How effective are alcohol-based hand rubs (hand sanitizers)? 

They are effective if your hands are not visibly dirty.  If they are visibly dirty, then you need to use soap and water. 

If you use alcohol rubs (hand sanitizers) that contain a concentration of alcohol from 60% to 90%, they are very efffecive. 

They are widely used in the health care settings and in situations when water is not available.

The alcohol content of the product completely evaporates in 15 seconds.

When shopping for an alcohol-based product, make sure the alcohol content is at least 60%.



When should I use alcohol-based hand rubs (hand sanitizers)?

Use these products if your hands are not visibly dirty.  If your hands are visibly dirty, please use soap and water.



How do I use alcohol-based hand rubs (hand sanitizers)?

  • Make sure your hands are visibly clean.  If not, wash your hands instead.
  • Apply to one palm.  Use enough to make the size of a loonie.
  • Rub your hands together to cover all areas of your hands, including under your nails and the backs of your hands.
  • Rub until your hands feel dry, which should be about 15-20 seconds if you’ve used the right amount of the product. 



Is it safe for children to use alcohol-based hand rubs?

Yes, it is safe. It is important to let children know that it should not be swallowed.  Supervision is important.  It is also important to store it safely so children can’t access it without an adult. 

After the alcohol evaporates, if is safe for children to touch their mouth or eyes.



What are some common mistakes I should avoid?

DON’T use a single damp cloth to wash a group of children's hands.

DON'T use a standing basin of water to wash or rinse hands.

DON'T use a common hand towel. Always use disposable towels in day care or food preparation settings.

DON'T use sponges or non-disposable cleaning cloths unless you launder them on a regular basis, adding chlorine bleach to the wash water. Remember that germs thrive on moist surfaces.



What are some ways to help children with good hand washing technique?

It is important to encourage and help children to wash hands before eating, after playing outdoors or with pets, after using the bathroom, and after blowing their noses.

Even though hands may appear to be clean, they can still carry germs.

Don’t assume that children know how to wash their hands properly. Supervision, especially in a day care setting, is essential in forming good hand washing habits.



Is there a poster to promote proper handwashing and hand sanitizing?

There are several posters available from the province of Ontario.  Click on the links below to download:






First Nation Languages:


Other Languages:

Please call the Infectious Diseases program for a copy of a hand washing poster in one of the following languages (625-8318 or 1-888-294-6630, ext. 8318):

  • Arabic
  • Bengali
  • Chinese
  • Farsi
  • Greek
  • Italian
  • Korean
  • Portugese
  • Punjabi
  • Russian
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Tagalog
  • Tamil
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese


Where have your hands been?:

There are also posters that promote the importance of washing hands in different situations as part of the "Where Have Your Hands Been?" campaign.




Where can I get more information about best practices for health care professionals?

To access the PIDAC Best Practice document, click here.

For more information about the Just Clean Your Hands program for health care professionals, click here.



Where can I get more information?

Click here for fact sheets from the province of Ontario’s website. 

You can also call the Infectious Disease program at 625-8318 or 1-888-294-6630, ext. 8318.



Adapted from: Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Last Updated: 11/16/2015