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Indiana State Department of Health

Food Protection Home > Kid's Corner > Handwashing Handwashing

Question: What is the easiest, best way to keep from getting sick from food?

Answer: It’s so simple it might surprise you! The answer is handwashing.

Hans B. Kleen has lots of helpful hints and information to help you remember how and when it’s important to wash your hands.

Bacteria and viruses are tiny, one-celled living organisms. Just like people, bacteria need water, food, and air to breathe in order to stay alive and to multiply. Viruses do not need food or water, but they do need a host – another living creature – to live and multiply. These organisms are microscopic, meaning you can’t see them without a microscope. You can’t see, smell or taste them in your food.

Your body normally is covered with millions of bacteria every day. Most of these bacteria are harmless, but some can make you very sick. Our hands are usually one of the germiest parts of our bodies, because they touch lots of things every day. Think about the things that you have touched in the last hour, that might have a lot of germs (or bacteria) on them. Some examples might be a telephone, a doorknob, a computer keyboard, a toilet handle, a pet, a trashcan or even your own mouth. When you touch a surface that has many bacteria or viruses, you can transfer them to your mouth while eating, drinking, coughing or just touching your face. Some of these germs can make you pretty sick!

Hans B. Kleen knows how to keep himself from getting sick from food – that’s called a foodborne illness. He knows that washing his hands at the right times will get rid of most of the bad bacteria and viruses that cause illness. Below, he has listed some of the most important times to wash his hands.

After using the restroom
Before touching any food
Before cooking or making a snack
Before eating
After coughing, sneezing or blowing his nose
After feeding or playing with his pet, or after cleaning a pet’s cage or litter box
After taking out the trash
After changing a baby’s diaper
After helping his parents with housecleaning chores
After playing outside
Any time his hands look or feel dirty

Do you think you are a good handwasher? Hans can give you some tips on the best way to wash your hands. Read the list below, and see if you wash your hands as well as you should.

Do you:

Wet your hands first with warm water?
Use about a ½ teaspoon of soap?
Scrub your hands for 20 seconds?
Rinse your hands completely?
Dry them off with a paper towel?
Use the towel to turn off the water faucet?
If you follow all these steps when you wash your hands, congratulations!

You are a good handwasher.

Here’s a little trick you can use to remember how long to scrub:

Sing the "happy birthday" song two times in a row. This equals about 20 seconds.