Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Washing Hands

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HealthWiki > New Where There Is No Doctor > Water and Sanitation: Keys to Staying Healthy > Washing Hands


One of the best ways to avoid getting sick from germs and worms is to wash hands with soap and water. Even if your hands look clean, germs and worm eggs can be on them. These can make you sick if they get into your mouth or on your food.

 water pouring from pipe onto hands 1. Run water over your hands to wet them.
 soapy hands rubbing

2. Use soap and rub your hands together. The rubbing is what gets the germs off. Be sure to rub in between the fingers and around the fingernails too.

 water pouring from pipe onto hands

3. Run clean water over your hands to rinse them well.
 hands dried with cloth
4. Dry your hands with a clean cloth.
 man pouring water to help child wash hands


It is best to use soap to remove dirt and germs. If no soap is available, you can use sand or ashes.

Always wash your hands:

  • after passing stool or cleaning a baby’s bottom.
  • before preparing food or eating.
  • after touching animals.
  • after sneezing or coughing.
  • if you are sick.

Your health is in your hands. Wash often.



The tippy-tap

This simple hand-washing device allows you to wash your hands using very little water. It also allows you to rub both hands together while water runs over them, which removes germs. Put it wherever people need to wash their hands, such as where food is prepared, at the toilet, or at the market.

How to make a tippy-tap

To make this tippy-tap you need 1) a plastic bottle with a screw-on cap, like a soda bottle, and 2) the tube from a ball point pen, or some other small, stiff, hollow tube.

1. Clean the bottle.
2. Using a heated piece of wire, make a small hole in the lower part of the bottle.
3. Remove and clean the inside tube from a ball-point pen. Cut it off at an angle, and push it through the hole in the bottle. The tube should fit tightly.
4. Fill the bottle with water and replace the cap. When the cap is tight, no water should flow through the tube. When the cap is loose, water should flow out in a steady stream. When you are sure it works, put it where people can use it for hand-washing. Keep soap nearby or tie a bar of soap to the bottle.  Illustration of the below: hanging plastic bottle with tube through hole near bottom 5. To use the tippy-tap: Loosen the cap just enough to let water flow. Wet your hands, add soap, and rub your hands together under the water until they are clean. Close the cap when you are done.  Illustration of the below: hands washing with water pouring from finished tippy-tap


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