Global Handwashing Day

One of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs and stay healthy is also one of the simplest — handwashing with soap and water. Keeping hands clean can prevent 1 in 3 diarrheal illnesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu.

Student washing her hands at an outdoor wash basin.

Each year on October 15, Global Handwashing Day highlights the importance of handwashing with soap and water at home, in the community, and around the world.

Global Handwashing Dayexternal icon serves as a yearly reminder that handwashing with soap and water is one of the best steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. The observance was established by the Global Handwashing Partnership in 2008. This year’s theme, “Our Future is at Hand—Let’s Move Forward Together,” calls for coordinated action as we actively work toward universal hand hygiene.

Many germs that can make people sick are spread when we don’t wash our hands with soap and clean, running water. That is why handwashing is so important, especially at key times such as after using the bathroom, when preparing food, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.

Handwashing in Communities

Handwashing with soap and water is not only simple and inexpensive, but also can dramatically reduce the number of young children who get sick. Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. Handwashing education in the community can:

  • Reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by about 23–40%
  • Reduce absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29–57%
  • Reduce diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by about 58%
  • Reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by about 16–21%

Get Involved

People and communities around the world celebrate Global Handwashing Day in many ways. CDC has developed resources and materials to help you promote handwashing in your community by:

  • Downloading resources from CDC’s national handwashing campaign, Life is Better with Clean Hands
  • Learning how to wash hands the right way with these videos
  • Sharing messages on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other platforms to raise awareness about the importance of handwashing
  • Downloading and sharing buttons and badges about handwashing on your website or social media account
  • Ordering free handwashing posters to remind everyone to fight off germs by washing their hands
Page last reviewed: September 24, 2021