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University of Minnesota Extension

Washing your hands and personal cleanliness

When preparing or serving food, you have a very important job in providing safe food for family and friends. Use correct kitchen habits and learn to practice good personal hygiene. Dirty kitchens, bad personal hygiene or careless food handling can carry bacteria that infect food and cause foodborne illnesses.

See why it's important to wash your hands before you put on gloves to prepare food. 

Keep your hands clean

  1. Wash your hands adequately with warm water and soap.

    • Wet your hands, soap them, then rub your palms and the back of your hands for at least 20 seconds.
    • Do not forget your nails and the areas between your fingers.
    • Rinse under running water from your wrist to the tip of your fingers.
    • Dry your hands with paper towels.
    • Use a towel to turn the faucet off because sometimes dirty hands open the faucet.
  2. Wash your hands after:

    • Touching garbage, poison, cleaning supplies or anything that gets your hands dirty.
    • Contact with animals or pets, their dishes or bedding.
    • Using the bathroom, always wash your hands before returning to the food.
  3. Don't lick your fingers while preparing food.

    • Food can be good to the point of licking your fingers, but licking your fingers is not good for food.
  4. Do not wear rings or other jewelry when preparing food.

    • Dirt sticks to cracks and corners. If you have scabs, cuts or burned hands, use disposable plastic gloves to prevent germ spread.
  5. Keep clean hands out of your mouth, nose and hair.

  6. Cover sneezes and coughs with a clean tissue and wash your hands again.

Clean washing hands.

Don't prepare food if you have a cold or flu

  1. When you have a cold or flu stay away from the kitchen if you can.

  2. If you must handle food be very careful about washing your hands.

  3. Use utensils instead of your hands when working with food.

Keep food and utensils clean

  1. Don't sample your food with a spoon unless it is clean and used only once.

  2. Throw away food that touched the floor.

    • Even if your kitchen is so clean that someone can “eat off of the floor,” do not pick food up to eat.
    • Do not mix it with non-contaminated food.

Keep your kitchen clean

Sanitize your sink and counter tops.

  • Use 1 teaspoon of household bleach, such as Clorox, in 1 quart of water to sanitize counter tops and sinks. Mix a fresh mixture daily.

Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator and Kathy Brandt, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

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