11 Germs Spread From Not Washing Hands

March 18, 2024

It feels like handwashing has been instilled in our minds from the moment we were born. With the COVID-19 pandemic, handwashing was further highlighted as a good hygiene practice to prevent the spread of the virus. However, coronavirus isn’t the only thing that can be spread by not washing your hands. In this guide, we have compiled a list of diseases from not washing hands to educate you on the importance of properly washing your hands. 

  • How Pathogens Spread
  • Bacterial Germs 
  • Viruses Spread Through Not Washing Hands 
  • Fungal Infections 
  • Nosocomial Infections 
  • How To Wash Your Hands Properly 
  • Ensure Good Handwashing Practices With Woosh 

How Pathogens Spread

Before we delve into the list of infections you can catch by not washing your hands, let’s first understand how diseases spread in the first place. 

Pathogens are harmful germs that can cause disease and infections. They can come in various forms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. Each type of pathogen can also spread differently depending on the corresponding infection. 

For example, the Influenza virus (the Flu) has symptoms of coughing and sneezing. Not only can these pathogens be spread from person to person through the air, but an infected individual could cough into their hands and proceed to touch surfaces such as door handles. This can then go on to infect anyone else who touches the same door handle as the flu and can stay active on a surface for up to 24 hours. Simply not washing your hands after coughing or sneezing into them can cause the spread of disease in just a couple of minutes! 

Bacterial Germs

One type of germ that can be spread through not washing your hands is bacterial germs. Through direct contact with contaminated surfaces or food contamination, there are a number of ways you can spread and catch a bacterial infection, including simply not washing your hands. Here are the most common bacterial infections you could get:

Escherichia Coli (E. coli)

E. coli is one of the most common bacteria you could catch. In fact, the leading cause of spreading E. coli is not washing your hands. Found in faecal matter, E. coli can cause a range of illnesses, such as gastrointestinal infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and more serious complications like Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which has symptoms like the destruction of red blood cells. By washing your hands after using the toilet and handling food, you can reduce your risk of coming into contact with E. coli. 


Salmonella is a bacterial germ that you have probably heard of. Commonly associated with raw chicken, salmonella can come from a variety of raw poultry, eggs, and unpasteurised dairy products. If you were to become infected by salmonella, you would experience food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and fever. Washing your hands before and after handling raw food products and ensuring your food is cooked thoroughly can minimise the risk of salmonella and its consequences. 

Staphylococcus Aureus

Found on the skin and nose of healthy individuals, Staphylococcus Aureus can cause infections if it enters the body through any cuts, wounds, or even medical devices on a person. Once infected with Staphylococcus Aureus, you could experience skin infections or pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and food poisoning, depending on where you have come into contact with the germ. Simply washing your hands can lower the risk of spreading Staphylococcus Aureus and infecting your food.


Another common bacterial germ is Streptococcus. Commonly responsible for strep throat, skin infections, and even meningitis, Streptococcus can have serious implications, so containing the spread of this bacterial germ is crucial in protecting yourself and those around you. Washing your hands will remove any Streptococcus bacteria from your hands, preventing transmission and breaking the chain of infection.

Viruses Spread Through Not Washing Hands

Viruses can be easily spread due to the symptoms they cause. From Influenza viruses to the common cold, symptoms of these viruses are commonly coughing and sneezing. This provides these viruses with the perfect way of transmission: through the air and from infected hands.


Known for causing acute gastroenteritis or the stomach flu, this virus is highly contagious. With symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, and nausea, norovirus is another pathogen that can be spread easily by not washing your hands. After an infected person has used a toilet, they may not wash their hands properly, causing infectious pathogens to be spread around a public washroom and infecting others. 

Influenza Virus 

We all know what the influenza virus is and have probably experienced it ourselves. Common symptoms of the flu include coughing, sneezing, headaches, and fever. If someone infected with the flu decides to cough or sneeze into their hands and then doesn’t wash their hands, every surface they touch thereafter will become infected. This means anyone who touches the site of infection within 24 hours could also become infected if they don’t wash their hands, as germs on the hands will be transmitted to their face. This is how the chain of infection occurs. 

Rhinovirus (Common Cold)

Another virus you have probably heard of and experienced is Rhinovirus, more commonly known as the common cold. This virus is very similar to Influenza, where common symptoms include coughing and sneezing. The same situation could happen in this case where an individual infected with the common cold could sneeze or cough into their hands and not wash them, causing the spread of Rhinovirus. 

Hepatitis A 

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is commonly transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food or water. You could also be infected with Hepatitis A if you come into close contact with someone who has Hepatitis A. Some symptoms of Hepatitis A include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, and even jaundice. 

To prevent the spread of Hepatitis A, infected individuals should maintain good hand hygiene by washing their hands before handling any food. The spread of this virus can also be through contact with surfaces infected with Hepatitis A faecal matter. This is why it is imperative you wash your hands after using the toilet to reduce your risk of infection. 

Fungal Infections 

Another type of germ that can be removed with the help of washing your hands properly is fungi. Some examples of fungal infections include athlete’s foot, ringworm, yeast infections, and fungal nail infections. Common symptoms of a fungal infection include itching, redness, and a rash. To prevent fungal infections, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly to remove any fungal spores from your hands, which can otherwise cause infection. 

Nosocomial Infections 

Nosocomial infections are infections that patients in a hospital can acquire while receiving treatment for other conditions. These infections are not limited to the hospital but rather to any healthcare setting, such as clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centres. 

These infections are not specific to the type of germ either. For example, E. coli is a common type of bacteria that is spread around hospitals. This can cause UTIs and bloodstream infections. Additionally, norovirus is also common in hospitals and can lead to gastrointestinal infections. This shows it is important not only for the public to wash their hands properly but also for staff members to ensure they are washing their hands in between patients to reduce the chance of spreading infection between patients. 

How To Wash Your Hands Properly 

Now we know what could happen if you don’t wash your hands, let’s take a look at how to wash your hands properly to remove germs on the hands that could cause harmful infections.

  1. Wet your hands with water. 
  2. Apply soap to cover your hands. 
  3. Rub your hands together vigorously to ensure you are removing any germs from your hands. 
  4. Use one hand to rub in between your fingers and the back of your other hand. 
  5. Repeat with your other hand. 
  6. Rub your hands together, and don’t forget about cleaning between your fingers. 
  7. Grip the fingers of each hand together and rub your fingertips together and the back of your fingers against your palms. 
  8. Don’t forget to clean your thumbs!
  9. Rub your fingertips on the palm of your other hand. 
  10. Repeat with your other hand. 
  11. Rinse your hands with water. 
  12. Dry your hands with either a clean disposable towel or a hand dryer

You may not always have access to soap and water to clean your hands. If this is the case, you should invest in a good antibacterial hand sanitiser to ensure you are still implementing good hand hygiene. 

Ensure Good Handwashing Practices With Woosh 

You may not think not washing your hands has a big impact, but it does! From spreading germs to infecting yourself with diseases, there are many implications of not washing your hands. To reduce the risk of yourself and others catching any of the germs listed above, why not invest in good hand hygiene? 

At Woosh, we have a range of hand washing and drying products. From soap dispensers to hand dryers, soaps, and hand sanitisers, we have everything you need to ensure your washrooms are equipped with everything your washroom users need to clean their hands effectively. Contact us today to see how we can elevate your washroom to promote good hand hygiene. 


What proportion of infections are passed on by touch?

Approximately 80% of common infections are spread by hand. This means hands that have not been washed thoroughly have touched surfaces, leaving germs behind. With so many germs able to survive for hours to weeks on hard surfaces, washing your hands has never been so important to not only stop the spread of the infection but also reduce your chance of becoming infected. 

What are four ways that infection can be spread?

A common question is, “How are infections spread?”. There are many ways germs can be spread. Some examples include

  • Droplet spread: Where water droplets containing infectious particles are expelled from an infectious person. 
  • Airborne spread: Sometimes, infectious agents can be transmitted through the air in tiny aerosol particles. 
  • Direct contact: Through physical contact with an infected individual or their infectious bodily fluids. Some examples include shaking hands, kissing, or contact with wounds. 
  • Indirect contact: When a person touches a contaminated surface. By washing your hands, you can prevent this type of transmission as your hands will be clean before you touch your face, reducing your risk of infection. 

What are the 5 most common types of infection in the UK?

The five most common types of infection in the UK are: 

  • Influenza (the Flu)
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
  • Norovirus
  • Chlamydia
  • Staphylococcus Aureus infections 

What is the most common infection in the UK?

Unsurprisingly, the most common infection in the UK is the common cold. Often caused by rhinovirus, this infection can cause symptoms of a runny nose, sore throat, coughing, and sneezing. With the symptoms of coughing and sneezing, a common way this virus is transmitted is through respiratory droplets and direct contact. 

Infected individuals who cough or sneeze into their hands, don’t wash them, and then proceed to touch surfaces can spread the virus. This is why it is important to wash your hands every time you sneeze or cough into your hands.

What is a germ?

A germ is any microorganism that is capable of causing infections or diseases. This includes bacteria, viruses, fungi, or protozoa. There are various ways germs can be transmitted, from direct contact, respiratory droplets, contaminated surfaces (indirect contact), and through the air. 

What is the first stage of handwashing?

The first stage of handwashing is to wet your hands with water. The water doesn’t necessarily have to be warm. It can be cold, as soap still works effectively with cold water, contrary to popular belief! 

What is the second stage of handwashing?

After you have wet your hands with enough water, you should apply a good amount of soap. There is no need to have an excessive amount, as you will lather the soap to cover both your hands thoroughly. After you have applied soap, you should rub your hands together to lather the soap and disturb any germs. Don’t forget about the backs of your hands and between your fingers, too! The full handwashing process lasts at least 20 seconds, the same length as singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. 

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