6 Step Handwashing Guide

Protect yourself and others from germs with these simple handwashing steps

Originally published on: July 1st, 2021. Last modified on June 24th, 2022

It is essential that the highest standards of hygiene are maintained at all times. Handwashing is one of the simplest ways you can protect yourself from infection and stop germs from transferring to other people or surfaces (such as handles). 

You must wash your hands prior to carrying out any aspect of personal hygiene, for example, handling your catheter or drainage bag, or changing your stoma bag.

Be sure to wash your hands regularly throughout the day, for example before eating or when returning home from being in public spaces. Government guidance in recent months encourages people to wash hands using warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds, and be sure to dry them thoroughly afterwards using a clean towel or hand drier.

The 6 step guide

These handwashing steps can help ensure you carry out a thorough hygiene routine to aid your personal care. Use an un-perfumed soap from a dispenser. Whatever the product used, the hand washing technique is very important to ensure effective results in preventing the spread of infection.

STEP 1.  Wash palms of hands.

Step 1 - Handwashing Guide

STEP 2.  Wash between fingers at back of hands.

Step 2 - Handwashing Guide

STEP 3.  Wash between fingers palm to palm.

Step 3 - Handwashing Guide

STEP 4.  Wash palm area.

Step 4 - Handwashing Guide

STEP 5. Pay particular attention to thumb area and thumb joint.

Step 5 - Handwashing Guide

STEP 6.  Wash finger tips paying particular attention to nails and dry hands well with clean disposable towel discarding correctly. 

Step 6 - Handwashing Guide
Reference (Images): G.A.J Ayliffe (1978)

Most Commonly Missed Areas

It is important to pay particular attention to the following areas which have been shown to be the most commonly missed following hand washing.

Handwashing Guide - Commonly Missed Areas
Reference (Images): Taylor L (1978)


  • Hand washing is the simplest and easiest way of preventing the spread of infection to yourself and other people.
  • Thorough rinsing under running water is an important part of the procedure. Finally, dry the hands thoroughly using one paper towel for each hand – this also helps to prevent soreness. 
  • For more information see the NHS guide to washing your hands