Frequent and thorough handwashing is the best way to eliminate germs, preventing their spread, and reduce the risk of illness. In a commercial foodservice setting, regular handwashing is one of the most significant preventative measures to take to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and protect patrons from foodborne illness.

When Should You Wash Your Hands?

Keeping hands clean by regularly washing is also the best protection during cold and flu season, or when certain diseases – such as the COVID-19 Coronavirus – are sweeping through your area. Germs readily spread from people or surfaces whenever you touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; prepare or eat food; touch a contaminated surface or object; blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into your hands and then touch other people or objects. Therefore, it’s best to always wash your hands after doing any of the following:

  • Using the restroom
  • Touching the body or clothing
  • Coughing, sneezing, blowing nose, using a handkerchief or tissue
  • Eating, drinking, smoking, chewing gum, or chewing tobacco
  • Handling soiled items
  • Handling raw meat, seafood, or poultry
  • Taking out the garbage
  • Handling service animals
  • Handling chemicals
  • Before beginning a new task
  • Leaving and returning to a food prep area
  • Handling money
  • Using electronic devices
  • Touching anything that may contaminate hands, such as dirty equipment, work surfaces, or cloths

How Should You Wash Your Hands?

Knowing when you should wash your hands, especially in a commercial foodservice, is half the battle. It’s equally important to do so properly to ensure all bacteria is efficiently removed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines the following five steps for effective handwashing:

Step 1: Wet hands with clean, running water. Turn off the tap and apply soap.

Step 2: Lather hands by running them together with soap. Lather the back of hands, between fingers, and under nails.

Step 3: Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. If you need a good timer, hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice from beginning to end.

Step 4: Rinse hands well under hot, clean running water.

Step 5: Dry hands with a clean towel.

Download our printable handwashing checklist to keep on hand and visible to staff to encourage frequent handwashing. 

Using hand sanitizer alone isn’t ideal. It’s best used in conjunction with handwashing after hands are thoroughly washed. However, if soap and water aren’t readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol as noted on the product label) to kill most germs. A few notes about hand sanitizer to keep in mind:

  • Sanitizers do not kill all types of germs
  • Sanitizers may not be effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy
  • Sanitizers might not remove chemical contaminants like pesticides

Know How to Operate Your Hand Sink: Tips for Automatic and Manual Faucets

Your type of hand sink is a factor that also comes into play to ensure hands are washed effectively. Some hand sinks are manually operated while others rely on faucet sensors. Faucets with automatic sensors are typically thought to be more sanitary since touching is not required. However, as long as proper operating procedures are followed for either type of hand sink, hands should remain germ-free.

Steps for Washing Hands with a Manual Faucet


Step 1: Turn on the faucet

Step 2: Wet hands

Step 3: Apply enough soap to cover the entire surface of the hand

Step 4: Lather thoroughly, ensuring you scrub for at least 20 seconds

Step 4: Rinse hands

Step 5: Dry hands with a clean towel (preferably a single use paper towel)

Step 6: Use the towel to turn off the faucet

Steps for Washing Hands with an Automatic Faucet

A hands-free sensor faucet adds another line of defense against illness-causing bacteria and viruses.

Step 1: Place hands under the faucet near the sensor activator to turn on and wet

Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover the entire surface of your hands

Step 3: Lather thoroughly, ensuring you scrub for at least 20 seconds

Step 4: Rinse hands

Step 5: Dry hands with a clean towel (preferably a single use paper towel)

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