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Publication #FCS8784

Proper Hand Washing for Food Handlers1

Amy Simonne2

Hand washing is one of the primary methods used to help prevent foodborne illness. Proper hand washing will reduce your risk of transmitting disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and other agents to people who eat the food you handle. If you need to use hand sanitizer, always wash your hands first! Dirt, foods, or anything else on your hands makes the alcohol less effective. Do not use hand sanitizer in place of hand washing!

Figure 1. 

Remove jewelry, except for plain wedding bands.

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Figure 2. 

Use soap and warm running water.

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Figure 3. 

Lather your hands and arms up to your elbows with soap for 20 seconds (sing the Happy Birthday song twice).

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Figure 4. 

Wash the backs of your hands and wrists, between fingers, and under fingernails using a nailbrush.

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Figure 5. 

Rinse your hands and arms under warm running water.

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Figure 6. 

Use a paper towel to turn off the water. Dry your hands and arms with clean, disposable paper towels. If you use a hand sanitizer, apply it now.

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Wash your hands before:

Entering a food service station

Handling ready-to-eat or raw foods

Touching serving utensils

Putting on new gloves

Handling different foods

Serving foods

Wash your hands after:

Visiting the restroom

Touching bare human body parts (ears, nose, hair, etc.)

Handling garbage

Working with raw foods

Handling cleaning chemicals

Doing other activities that dirty your hands



This document is FCS8784, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date February 2006. Revised December 2008. Reviewed October 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Amy Simonne, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.