What Is the Safe Hands Challenge? Here's What You Need to Know About the New Viral Trend

Here's everything you need to know about the Safe Hands Challenge, which is going viral in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Teenaged Boy Washing His Hands
(Image credit: Ute Grabowsky)

If you've been scrolling through social media lately (so, you know, if you're a human with access to the internet), you've probably been witness to the early stages of a new viral video challenge: The Safe Hands Challenge. If you're wondering why the challenge is going viral, how it got started, who's participating or just about anything else about the Safe Hands Challenge, keep reading.

What is the Safe Hands Challenge?

The Safe Hands Challenge (which you can find on social media under the hashtag #SafeHands (opens in new tab) and #SafeHandsChallenge (opens in new tab)) is a public health-focused viral challenge aimed at educating people around the globe about best practices for hand-washing (opens in new tab).

As with past viral video challenges (like the Ice Bucket Challenge (opens in new tab)), participants are asked to film a specific video, post it to social media, and nominate three other people to participate in the challenge after them.

Who started the Safe Hands Challenge?

The Safe Hands Challenge is the brainchild of the public health experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) (opens in new tab). The United Nations (opens in new tab) shared a video explaining the challenge and kicking things off on March 13.

In the video, WHO Director-General (opens in new tab)Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (opens in new tab), walks us through the proper technique for our hands—a pivotal, frontline defense against spreading the coronavirus.

"There are several practical measures you can take to protect yourself from the new coronavirus," Ghebreyesus explains in the video. "One of the most important is regular, safe, and effective hand hygiene using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.

How do you participate in the Safe Hands Challenge?

You don't have to wait for someone to "nominate" you if you're looking to get in on this viral trend. To participate, film a video of yourself demonstrating proper hand-washing techniques, and post it to social media. If you do decide to participate, be sure to follow all of the steps outlined in the WHO video and to wash your hands for a full 40 second, as recommended.

Here are the WHO hand-washing steps listed out for reference—but be sure to watch the video for visual instructions if any of the steps don't make sense.

  1. Wet hands with water (but then turn the faucet off until it's time to rinse to conserve water).
  2. Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces.
  3. Rub hands palm-to-palm.
  4. Scrub with your right palm over left hand and fingers interlaced. And then vice versa.
  5. Scrub palm to palm with fingers interlaced.
  6. Rub the back of your fingers against the opposing palm with your fingers interlocked.
  7. Practice rotational rubbing of your left and right thumbs (do this by gripping you thumb with the fingers of the opposite hand and rotating).
  8. Do rotational rubbing with clasped fingers.
  9. Rinse your hands with water.
  10. Dry thoroughly with a towel.
  11. Use the towel to turn off the tap.

Which celebrities have participated in the Safe Hands Challenge?

On Sunday, Selena Gomez (opens in new tab) became the most high-profile celebrity so far to participate in the challenge, with a video shared with her 171 million Instagram followers. The singer, who was nominated by Ariana Huffington to participate in the challenge, called on Cardi B (opens in new tab)Gigi Hadid (opens in new tab), and Olivia Wilde (opens in new tab) to take the Safe Hands Challenge next.

Wilde quickly rose to the challenge, posting her own Safe Hands Challenge video and nominating Margaret Qualley, Florence Pugh, and Dakota Johnson (opens in new tab).

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Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.