Personal Hygiene

Personal hygiene means keeping your body clean. Keeping your skin, hands, teeth, hair, nails, and feet clean every day are the best ways to keep infections away. Follow the guidelines below for ways to stay healthy and avoid spreading illness to others.


ExitCare ImageYour hands touch a lot of surfaces throughout the day. This can put germs on your hands. Washing them often and properly is a good way to prevent germs from spreading to others and making you ill. 

 When to wash your hands

  • Before and after preparing food.

  • Before and after caring for a wound on the skin.

  • Before eating.

  • Before touching your face.

  • After using the restroom.

  • After blowing your nose or coughing.

  • After touching animals.

  • After touching trash or something dirty.

  • After changing diapers.

  • After caring for others who are ill.

  • After gardening.

 How to wash your hands

  • Wet your hands with warm or cold running water.

  • Scrub and rub your hands together with soap for 20 to 30 seconds. (It may help to hum a short tune each time that is about this long.)

  • Make sure you wash all areas including between fingers and under nails.

  • Rinse well.

  • Dry your hands with a clean towel. Use disposable towels or dryers in restrooms.

  • If running water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Rub it all over the surfaces of your hands. It can safely remove many, but not all, of the germs on your hands.

Teaching children good hand washing practices early can benefit them throughout life and keep your family healthy. 


Germs under the nails can cause infection or fungus outbreaks. Nails that are too long can scratch and irritate the skin.

  • Wash hands frequently and look under your nails. You may use a scrub brush or clipper nail tool to loosen the dirt and germs under the nails.

  • Keep the nails trimmed to shorter lengths to avoid scratching the skin. You may use nail clippers or scissors.


It is important to wash away sweat and oils on the skin and keep any open wounds on the skin clean. Daily bathing can help prevent bacteria from causing infection in the skin or other problems such as body lice. Body lice are tiny parasites that can cause itching and a rash. You can get body lice when you come in contact with someone who has lice, or with infected clothing, towels, or bedding. You are more likely to get lice if you do not bathe regularly. 

  • Take a daily shower or bath. Clean all areas of the body and skin folds with a soapy washcloth. Work from the head and face area to the arms, abdomen, back, legs, genitals, and anus last. When cleaning the genital areas, males and females should wash from front (tip of the penis or front of the labia) to back (rectal area). Rinse well. Dry with a clean towel.

  • Try washing your face twice daily with a mild soap or cleanser. Always use a clean towel. This can reduce oils, bacteria, and acne on the skin.

  • If you have a skin condition, use only the products recommended by your caregiver.

  • Never share personal hygiene items such as towels, razors, or deodorant. Disposable razors should be discarded after a few uses.

  • Public facilities (showers, lockers, pools) can contain many germs. Make sure you use only your personal items in public places.


Keeping your feet clean and toenails trimmed can help you avoid infection, irritation, or fungal outbreaks. Athlete's foot is a common foot condition caused by fungal growth on the skin. This happens when the feet stay moist and sweaty inside a shoe for too long, or when the feet are not protected from germs in public places.

  • Wash your feet daily with soap and water, especially after activity and sweating. Dry your feet including in between the toes. Put on fresh socks.

  • Keep your toenails trimmed straight across. Do not trim them too short as this can lead to ingrown toenails. Ingrown toenails can be painful and lead to infection.

  • Keep footwear clean and fresh. Wash sneakers and clean the inside of your shoes regularly.

  • Foot powders can help to reduce moisture in shoes, reducing fungus and germs.

  • Always wear shoes or flip flops in public pools, showers, lockers, or training facilities.


Bacteria on the gums, tongue, and teeth can lead to infection. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing can help to wash away bacteria in the mouth. 

  • Brush your teeth at least 2 times per day for several minutes. Floss your teeth at least once per day.

  • Brush your tongue daily.

  • Use an oral rinse as recommended by your dental caregiver.


  • Shampoo your hair regularly.

  • Use your own comb or brush. Brush daily from the scalp to the ends of the hair.

  • Clean and disinfect your hair tools regularly. Pull the loose hair out from combs and brushes.

  • Head lice are tiny insects that spread easily and feed on the scalp causing itching and irritation. Head lice spread easily, avoid:

  • Head to head contact.

  • Sharing hair tools.

  • Barrettes.

  • Headbands.

  • Headphones.

  • Hats and scarves.


  • Make sure all of your immunizations are up to date.

  • Disinfect surfaces at home and work.

  • Clean bath toys periodically in the dishwasher or with a bleach and water solution (9 parts water to 1 part bleach).

  • Avoid mosquito and tick bites by wearing proper clothing and using insect spray.

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of grains, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Exercise regularly.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention