You are here

10 Mom-Tested Hand-Washing Tricks

  • We all know that washing hands is important, but we also know we're so over the 10 minutes of negotiation that can precede it. Use these mom-developed techniques to keep your kids clean -- and you sane.

  • Stretch It Out

    Experts say you need to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to really get the germs off, but studies find that most kids leave the water running for less than five seconds. The moms we surveyed had these great ideas to make them wash longer:

    • Have them sing Happy Birthday -- twice -- while they wash

    • Use a kitchen timer or an hourglass to make it fun and accurate

    • Ask them to count to 10 slowly or 20 at a normal pace
  • Make it a Mantra

    "When my son was potty training, I always told him to 'cover, flush, and wash,'" says Jennifer Shu, M.D., a pediatrician in Atlanta, Georgia, mom and coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn. When you "build it into the routine and make it expected," it eliminates the need to negotiate every time. Kam, a mom from Redondo Beach, CA, agrees. The secret, she says, is "Routine, routine, routine. Every time we get home, we take off our jackets, shoes and socks, and wash hands before we can do anything else."

  • Set Up a Kid-Friendly Wash Station

    "Make it so they can reach everything they need," recommends Shu. Set up a stool, a special towel, and a soap dispenser within easy reach so that they can take pride in doing it all by themselves (and you can get back to what you were doing).

  • Make it Automatic

    "We bought an automatic soap dispenser, and my kids love to make the soap come out. Plus, they don't have to touch the dispenser with dirty hands," says Jenn, a mom from Atlanta, GA. Heather, a mom from Athol, ID, bought the Simplehuman Sensor Soap Pump, $36.99, which she credits with keeping her kids from using too much soap, and she loves that the "blinking LED lets our kids know how long to lather."

  • Get into the "Smells Like Clean" Spirit

    "We have a soap that smells like a Christmas tree, and we all love the smell of it," says Jennifer, a mom to two in New York, NY. "Every time my son washes his hands, he comes to show me how good they smell. He has to use enough soap to make them smell like a Christmas tree, and that gets them clean."

    Other fun-smelling options:

    Kiss My Face Kids Orange U Smart Foaming Hand Soap, $7.95

    Williams-Sonoma Essential Oils Collection Hand Soap in Pink Grapefruit, $12.95

  • Have Some Fun

    You don't need us to tell you that kids will buy into anything if it's fun. But you may not know about all the amusing soap options out there.

    "We buy all kinds of crazy soap," says Elizabeth, a mom from Long Island, NY, "like the ones where the bottles light up so you can close the door and have a disco show. My almost-four-year-old old would spend half an hour in there if I let him!"

    Soaprise Light Up Foaming Hand Soap

    Other mom-approved ideas:

    Put together a little soap menagerie and have them pick their favorite animal each time

    Rock out with soap dispensers that play music

  • Sneak in the Clean

    If washing hands is not exciting enough on its own, try these sneaky tactics. Cary, a mom from Brooklyn, NY, fills the sink up with water and soap, and drops in a pot and a sponge so she can "'wash dishes,' and her hands get super clean." Erica, from Pleasantville, CA, and mom of three, does soapy washcloth high-fives with her kids to keep them entertained and get as much lather as she can on those six little hands.

  • Schedule an Inspection

    New soaps have come out that change colors once your child's hands have been washed long enough. For Sandy, a mom from New Haven, CT, "It works like a charm. We have to stop my son from washing his hands!"

    Try Inspector Hector Dirt Detector, $3.99, and then schedule a mock military inspection before you can all be "at ease."

  • Make a Dirty Ditty

    No, not that kind! Diane, a mom from Columbia, SC, taught her children a reminder tune that makes washing easy to remember and more fun to do. She sings it to the tune of Frere Jacques:

    Front and back
    Front and back
    In between
    In between
    Rub them both together
    Rub them both together
    Now they're clean
    Now they're clean

    Another option:

    Twinkle, twinkle little star.
    Look how clean my two hands are.
    Soap and water, wash and scrub.
    Get those germs off rub-a-dub.
    Twinkle, twinkle little star.
    Look how clean my two hands are.

  • Let a Celebrity Sell It

    Pick a soap based on your child's latest character obsession. From SpongeBob to Hello Kitty, there's an appropriate celebrity soap for avid fans. An idol closer to home works too. "My daughter, who is almost three, is really into using my products," says Jessica, a mom from Brooklyn, NY. "We act like the regular hand soap is strictly mine and then we make a big deal out of letting her use 'Mommy's soap.'"

    Softsoap Foam Works Hand Soap - Spongebob Squarepants, $6.85

  • When All Else Fails -- FOAM!

    You can't beat the old-school fun of anything that foams, especially for little kids. Look for foamy version of hand soap and sanitizer. Cary, mom to Alice in Brooklyn, says her daughter "always asks for 'a big squirt on both hands, Mama,' which is fine with me."

    CleanWell Foaming Hand Santizer, $4.99