According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proper handwashing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of germs that cause infection and illness. In honor of National Handwashing Awareness Week (Dec. 6 – 12), Cintas Corporation offers four handwashing tips to help maintain a healthier workplace this cold and flu season.

National Handwashing Awareness Week aims to “spread the word not germs” by promoting the importance of proper handwashing. To help promote proper hand-hygiene practices, consider the following:

1.    Know when to wash. While it’s important to regularly wash your hands, it’s even more important to wash your hands after certain activities such as using the toilet; before, during and after preparing food; touching an animal; blowing your nose; coughing; or sneezing. It can also be beneficial to wash hands after coming into contact with frequently touched items, such as door handles or light switches.

2.    Don’t skip the soap. Washing hands with soap and water is the best and most effective way to reduce the number of microbes and germs on hands. Studies show that you should scrub your hands, including areas between fingers and around the base of your hands, with soap for a minimum of 15-30 seconds in order to effectively remove germs.

3.    Dry hands completely. According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, hand drying is essential to staving off bacteria after handwashing as germs are more easily transferred to and from wet hands.

4.    Dry hands with paper towels. Studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic (Minn.) and University of Westminster (London) show that paper towels can help remove bacteria, unlike air dryers which can increase bacteria counts. Paper towels are also less likely to contaminate other restroom users as air dryers have also been shown to spread bacteria between three and six feet from the device.

Even if employees practice proper hand hygiene, it’s important for facilities to plan for additional cleaning and disinfection during winter months. Combat cold and flu season by using the proper cleaning tools, cleaning chemicals and cleaning processes to keep employees healthy and safe.

To complement a handwashing program, businesses should disinfect high-tough surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, desks, keyboards and phones regularly. Because viruses and bacteria are estimated to remain on hard surfaces for up to 18 hours, be sure to use a combination of anti-microbial cleaners and disinfectants to remove and kill pathogenic micro-organisms that thrive in these areas. Also remember to use separate microfiber mops and towels between zones to remove bacteria and reduce cross contamination.