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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 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. 

Rinse your hands and arms under warm running water.

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Figure 5. 

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 Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date February 2006. Revised December 2008 and March 2020. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.


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.