High-speed handwashing, an effective technique for groups

Handwashing is often done inadequately. Use high-speed handwashing when working with groups for a more effective and efficient process.

A person washing their hands under a faucet.
Photo: Maria Lin Kim/Unsplash.

View our high-speed handwashing video to see how it compares to traditional handwashing!

We have heard it time and time again: wash your hands so you don’t get sick. Handwashing is essential, but is often performed improperly. Maybe it can even seem time-consuming if you work with groups of kids at childcare or school.

According to an observational study by the United States Department of Agriculture, approximately 97% of people do not adequately wash their hands during food preparation. Poor handwashing contributes to an increase in the spread of sickness, and young children are especially susceptible to getting sick. However, a method known as high-speed handwashing can help alleviate the spread of disease.

High-speed handwashing is an excellent way to have groups of children or students wash their hands properly to prevent the spread of germs and diseases. This method allows groups to wash their hands in two to five minutes. Schools that utilize high-speed handwashing show many positive benefits. For example, children who wash their hands in a “traditional” way (i.e., the process of wet/scrub/rinse/dry while standing at the sink) spend only five or six seconds lathering their hands with soap before rinsing. But those who utilized high-speed handwashing found that they scrubbed up to 80 seconds.

It is proven that we can kill the most bacteria and remove dirt when we lather up for at least 20 seconds. So having kids wash for at least 20 seconds using high-speed handwashing is a better option for classrooms in order to meet this goal in an efficient manner. 

Before starting high-speed handwashing, an adult needs to show the children how to wash their hands properly. The leader will demonstrate scrubbing with soap between fingers, around the nails, and on the front and back of the hand. It is important to utilize a “lead” (a teacher or paraprofessional, for example) who can oversee that the proper techniques are being done. You will need warm water, soap, and paper towels.

How to high-speed handwash:
  1. Divide and line children up in groups of eight to ten kids. 
  2. To start, have the first child in line wet their hands, shake off excess water and apply liquid soap. Have that child go to the back of the line to scrub their hands together and lather. Remind the children that proper scrubbing will result in lots of bubbles. 
  3. Repeat this step with all the children in line. 
  4. When the first child makes it back to the front of the line, they rinse their soapy hands, get a paper towel from the leader and dry off their hands. 
  5. Instruct children drying their hands to step away from the sink to prevent congestion as others are rinsing their hands behind them. 

For extra excitement, play a short song and have the children try to race the clock to complete handwashing before the song is over. Using a timer or countdown works well too. Another complement to this lesson is to read a story about handwashing or germs to solidify the importance of proper handwashing.

In addition, high-speed handwashing works well in settings with adults, such as in food-service establishments. For example, when employees arrive for a shift change and there is a backup at the handwashing sink. Use this method to ensure that employees are thoroughly washing their hands while spending less time waiting. 

Proper handwashing helps to prevent the spread of disease and foodborne illness. Healthy kids equate to more days in school and more time spent learning. MSU Extension recommends trying high-speed handwashing today. For more information, visit MSU Extension's Safe Food & Water website.

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