Why do I have to wash my hands?

How many times a day do you wash your hands? I probably wash mine 100 times! That might seem like a lot but I wash them every time I go to the loo, after I feed or stroke the cat, before and during cooking, before I eat (and sometimes afterwards), after I stack dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and each time I clean up mess and spills around the house.

So why do I wash my hands so often? And why is hand-washing important?


I use my hands every day for all sorts of jobs and activities. Right now, I’m using one hand to type this blogpost and the other to stroke the cat! In a few minutes’ time, I’ll use them to make a cup of tea and eat a biscuit.

Because I use my hands for lots of things, they get dirty and sticky. If I’ve been gardening or painting, I can see and feel my hands getting dirty and know I have to clean them. But if I get bacteria and viruses on my hands, I can’t see or feel them (because they are too small) and yet I need to wash them off because they could make me poorly.

So, I wash my hands ‘just in case’ after I do things where I might accidentally pick up bacteria or viruses. I wash my hands to reduce my risk of getting poorly.

Doing things, like  washing and cleaning, to stay healthy and stop bacteria and viruses from spreading diseases is called ‘hygiene‘ (pronounced ‘hi-jeen’). Being hygienic is important because if we can wash the bacteria and viruses away before they make us ill, we won’t get poorly and have to ask the doctor for medicine to make us better!

The National Health Service has some really useful advice about washing your hands. You should wash them with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds after going to the loo, before eating and cooking, and after handling raw food or touching animals.

It’s also important to wash your hands before you visit people in hospital or older people in residential homes. This is because people in hospital are already poorly and they don’t need extra bacteria or viruses to make them feel worse! And older people aren’t as strong at fighting off illnesses as younger people, so try not to give them bacteria or viruses (even by accident!).

So, how many times a day do you wash your hands? Should you wash them more often? And do you do it for 20 seconds or two verses of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song?!

4 thoughts on “Why do I have to wash my hands?

  1. Kathryn Grace February 27, 2017 / 8:30 am

    I wash often, pretty much the same as you do, and for 21 seconds, which was the wisdom twenty years or so ago. I teach my grandkids to do the same, but it’s difficult to get them to stick it out for two rounds of the ABCs (which is what we use).

    Troubling: I’ve noticed that almost no health care professionals I see wash their hands for anything approaching that long, though. They’ll take a spurt of hand sanitizer on their hands, rub them together for a second or two, and that’s it. I often wonder if that does more harm than good and has anything to do with the proliferation of superbugs in our hospitals.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathryn Grace February 27, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    Thanks for the link. If medical professionals had to wash their hands for 30-40 seconds before and after touching each device and patient, their hands would be raw. Good to know that they only have to apply sanitizer and wait for it to dry. Eases my mind a tad.

    Liked by 1 person

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