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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Hand hygiene

Te mā o te ringa

This page has links to information in other languages.


Hand hygiene refers to cleaning your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub. Hand hygiene is the single most important way of stopping harmful germs (bacteria and viruses) spreading and causing infections.

The importance of hand hygiene

Everyone has germs. Our bodies are covered with germs that help us stay healthy. As well as germs that are usually on our skin, we also pick up germs from contact with other people or objects in our surroundings.

Germs are easy to pick up and transfer, so they can cause you or others to get sick. Although it's true that germs can be spread through the air, they're most easily spread through hand contact.

One of the best ways to stop germs spreading is to clean your hands. You can wash your hands with soap and water or decontaminate your hands with hand rub.

When you should clean your hands

You should always clean your hands:

How to clean your hands correctly

Click the image below to open or download a poster showing how to clean your hands with soap and water or with hand rub.

How to clean your hands

Other posters about washing your hands are available in English, te reo Māori, Hindi, Sāmoan, Simplified Chinese and Tongan.

Regular hand hygiene, particularly before and after the activities listed above, is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick. It also stops germs spreading to others. It's quick, it's simple and it can keep us all from getting sick. Hand hygiene is a win for everyone, except the germs.

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Written by the Hand Hygiene Steering Group, Te Whatu Ora Waitaha. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2023.


See also:

Diarrhoea and vomiting


Skin infections

Page reference: 227175

Review key: HIHYG-227175