Get Your Entire Family to Practice Good Handwashing Habits

These doctor-approved strategies will help motivate everyone in your house, even young tots, to be diligent hand washers.

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We know that frequent handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs—and, if you have little ones, to protect your walls and furniture from tiny, sticky handprints. But if members of your household are not as diligent about washing up as you'd like them to be, there are ways to encourage everyone, even young children, into the habit without having to nag. Here are some simple ways to nudge the whole family into regular hand washing.

1. Choose mild hand washes

A hand soap doesn't have to be labeled “antibacterial" to be effective at rinsing away germs, and formulas that are harsh on the skin will make some people less likely to hit the sink. “The goal of handwashing is simply to clean the skin without stripping it of essential moisture," says dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., an associate professor and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research, Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. So, he recommends a hand wash that contains a mild surfactant such as sodium Laureth sulfate, which won't dry out the skin—especially when washing your hands multiple times a day.

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2. Pick something pleasing

With all due respect to those basic, gets-the-job-done hand washes, a formula that has a rich, fluffy texture or comes in a scent that you love will help handwashing seem a bit more luxurious. Why not make the task a mini self-care moment? “I like to say that the best hand wash is the one you actually enjoy using because then you're more likely to frequently wash up," says Dr. Zeichner.

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3. Get kids excited about cleansing

Like anything else, getting into a handwashing routine is a learning process for children. “We remind our kids all the time and place a hand wash at every sink in our house to make it convenient for them," says Dr. Zeicher, father to an 8-year old and a 10-year old. (If you have very little ones, make sure there's also a step stool in their bathroom so they can reach the sink.) Here are Dr. Zeichner's tried-and-true, parent-approved tactics for getting children to practice good hand hygiene.

  • Sing a song at least 20 seconds long—that's the CDC's recommendation to ensure kids are sudsing their hands for enough time to get them clean. The MyKirei by KAO "6 Steps to Healthy Hands" song works, too! “The cleanser needs enough contact time with the skin in order to remove dirt and germs," explains Dr. Zeicher. “So we tell our children to really lather the suds all over their hands and in between their fingers. To make it fun, we have a contest to see who can make the biggest bubbles between their fingers."

  • Encourage them with a bit of a reward, like stickers or gold stars on their bulletin board after each time they wash their hands. “Once they hit a target number of gold stars, give them a small reward," says Dr. Zeichner. “With children, positive reinforcement for a job well done always works better than criticizing them for not doing it."

  • Give your kids options. “We put out a few different hand washes for our kids so they can choose what they want to use each time," says Dr. Zeichner. “This gives them a degree of control and ownership, which can be empowering for them." For kid-friendly formulas, the MyKirei by KAO Yuzu Flower Foam Hand Wash dispenses a dose of cloud-like foam in the shape of a pretty yuzu flower, while the MyKirei by KAO Paw Print Foam Hand Wash pumps out the foam in the shape of an adorable puppy paw print.

  • Repeat if necessary. “Examine your kids' hands after they come out of the bathroom, and walk them right back to the sink if you see that they didn't wash well enough—or at all," says Dr. Zeichner adds. Above all, be patient—it takes time for children to get into a routine.

At first, you'll have to remind people in your house, both young and grown-up, to get into these habits, but before you know it, these tactics will become second nature to everyone, and the only thing you'll have to remember to do is restock the hand washes.

 

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:

When and how to wash your hands. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html

Hand hygiene: Back to the basics of infection control. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249958/

 

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