How to Wash Your Hands Like a Surgeon

One of the few things everyone seems to agree on about the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of washing your hands thoroughly and ensuring your children know how to do the same.

As surgeons, we have to follow certain techniques to prepare for procedures. While we need to use a surgical scrub to ensure we do not introduce bacteria, viruses, or other contagions to our patients, you may be able to utilize some of our tricks and techniques to learn how to wash your hands properly. This is how we wash our hands at home.

Here is a video (in Spanish) we found online to illustrate what we discuss in this post.  Pay close attention to the black ink — that is meant to be antibacterial soap.  The goal is to cover all the surfaces of your hands.

Proper Hand Washing Techniques to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19

While you do not need to wash your hands like a surgeon to reduce the risk of catching or spreading the virus, knowing how to wash your hands thoroughly is going to be important for you and your family.

Moisten your hands with warm water and apply liquid soap. Soap is preferred over the hand cleaning agent. Hand sanitizer is not as effective on some bacteria, including clostridium difficile, or c. diff. Hand sanitizer with high alcohol content is a good option only when you do not have antibacterial soap and water available.

When washing your hands, you will want to pull them out from under the water and rub them together for at least 40 seconds. Be sure to rub your palms, back of your hand, and between your fingers, cleaning at least up to your wrists. After 20 seconds, repeat the prior steps and then you can rinse your hands under the running water.

Dry with a clean paper towel when possible, even at home. This lowers the risk of repeat contamination. Use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door, and throw it away in a hands-free trash can.

For home use, you may want to choose a soap with moisturizer in it because you should be washing your hands frequently. Regular washing is key to preventing any viruses you do pick up, but could lead to dry skin.

Counting Down to Proper Handwashing Techniques

Every time you wash your hands, you should spend a minimum of 40 seconds lathering and scrubbing. There are a number of ways people track how long they spend washing their hands. Teachers have long encouraged children to sing a familiar song to ensure they wash their hands long enough.  Sing these songs slowly, TWICE.

One popular example is to the tune of  “Row Row Row Your Boat” or “Happy Birthday To You” or the alphabet, a song that everyone knows.

Rub the soap on your finger tips and then rub your finger tips in a circular motion on your palms.  This will clean the tips and your palms.

With your soapy right hand, surround the fingers of your left hand one at a time and turn the right hand back and forth.  The do the opposite, clenching your left hand around each finger of your right fingers.

Then wash the backs of each hand from finger tips to wrists.

Singing “Happy Birthday” or the “ABCs” also works, or even the chorus of your favorite pop song, as long as it is about 40 seconds long. There are even websites to help you determine which parts of a song will work best for this.

Surgeons Use a More Intense Surgical Scrub Procedure

Because of the nature of the job, surgeons have to follow a more stringent procedure when we wash our hands. We also use different cleaning solutions.  However, soap will work just fine for you.  Our process includes:

  • Using a nail pick to clean under their fingernails
  • Using a nail brush to clean under their nails and
  • Scrubbing all four sides of each finger with a brush
  • Using antibacterial soap to scrub hands and arms up to the elbows
  • Covering all skin using circular movements
  • Utilizing a two-minute scrub

While none of this is necessary for the general public, it certainly cannot hurt to wash your hands as often and as fully as possible every time you get the chance.

Washing Your Hands Properly Can Make a Difference

As surgeons, we are trained to wash our hands in a thorough and effective way, greatly reducing the risk of spreading illness. While you do not have to wash your hands this way on a normal basis, it is good to know how to best wash your hands to reduce the spread of coronavirus and other illnesses.

Ensuring that  your hands are getting clean every time you wash them can help keep you healthy and prevent the spread of the virus to those at an increased risk of illness.