National Handwashing Awareness Week is Dec. 4-10 and is certainly timely with the upcoming flu season. It’s a good reminder of how important it is to wash your hands properly and how everything we touch has germs of one kind or another. Cell phones and computer keyboards can be especially germy, so wipe them down with an antibacterial wipe occasionally.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that handwashing should last for at least 20 seconds. Humming the “Happy Birthday” tune twice while scrubbing is a good measure of about 20 seconds. The recommended way to wash your hands properly is to lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers — often overlooked — and under your nails. Friction helps lift the microbes from your skin, and microbes are present on all surfaces of the hands, particularly under the nails. If you are in a public restroom and paper towels are available, use one to open the door. At home, it’s helpful to keep a nailbrush by your sink to help scrub soap under your nails.

Keeping hand wipes or alcohol-based sanitizer in your car during this time of year is a good idea. Did you just visit your pharmacy? There are lots of ill people picking up prescriptions and touching door handles, the credit card reader and other surfaces in and around the pharmacy and checkout counters. This is the perfect time to use those hand wipes or hand sanitizer. If you’re using hand sanitizer, really coat your hands and between your fingers with the product and let them air dry. It’s more effective if you don’t wipe them dry.

For more information and suggestions about proper and effective handwashing, visit the CDC’s Handwashing page.