Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Share CDC’s key handwashing messages in the Healthy Schools, Healthy People program, an activity, or a campaign you create for your school.
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
Cleaning hands at key times with soap and water or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to those around you.
There are important differences between washing hands with soap and water and cleaning them with hand sanitizer. For example, alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t kill ALL types of germs, such as a stomach bug called norovirus, some parasites, and Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea. Hand sanitizers also may not remove harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead. Handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs, pesticides, and metals on hands. Knowing when to clean your hands and which method to use will give you the best chance of preventing sickness. CDC’s printable fact sheet has additional tips.
Share these handwashing messages with your friends, family, school and community! You can also visit our Posters and Handouts page for more resources on hand hygiene.