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My Hand-Washing Song: Readers Offer Lyrics For A 20-Second Scrub

Sure, you can sing "Happy Birthday" twice to time your hand-washing — but one hand-washer recommends a 20-second excerpt from Beyoncé's "Love on Top."
Kevin Mazur Getty Images for Coachella
Sure, you can sing "Happy Birthday" twice to time your hand-washing — but one hand-washer recommends a 20-second excerpt from Beyoncé's "Love on Top."

Yes, washing your hands provides excellent protection against coronavirus (and other pathogens).

But you do need to scrub with soap for 20 seconds to remove those pathogens. That's what the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and many hand-washing experts recommend.

Twenty seconds is a long time when you're standing at a sink. The common advice is to wash as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice or the ABC song. If you don't rocket through the lyrics, you should get about 20 seconds of scrub time.


Yet after you've sung "Happy Birthday," oh, say, 337 times in one day, perhaps you might want some alternatives. We asked our readers what they're singing (or saying). Dozens chimed in. Here are some of their responses.

"Personally I always sing Beyonce's "Love on Top" chorus – who doesn't need a little more Queen Bey in their life?" writes public librarian Molly Price. Her department at the Ashe County Public Library, Adult Services, created a series of social media posts and posters (to hang in bathrooms) that encourage handwashing and offer musical options. She says the most popular post features Dolly Parton and the chorus to "Jolene," which should take you to the 20 second mark:

"Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, I'm begging of you please don't take my man. Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. Please don't take him just because you can."

Triage nurse Phillip Flavin goes for a line from Queen three times: "We will, we will rock you (rock you)." Sometimes, he says, he changes it to "We will, we will wash you."

For those whose gaze turns heavenward, Jody Brkich suggests "Twinkle, twinkle little star" twice. Or perhaps adding one of the obscure verses that offer a glimmer of hope: "When the blazing sun is gone, when he nothing shines upon, then you show your little light, twinkle, twinkle, all the night."


It's hard to resist this "Twinkle" rewrite submitted by Erika Perzan: "Twinkle, twinkle little star. Look how clean my two hands are. Around my wrists and between my thumbs, lace my fingers, I'm almost done. Twinkle, twinkle little star. Look how clean my two hands are!"

Preschool director Annely Carver wrote a rap:

Corona, Corona,

Don't call me on your phona.

I'm washing, I'm cleansing

There's no way you are messing

With me-with me!

I'm healthy as can be!!

Corona, Corona


Lugarda Cappetta suggests humming the wordless final Jeopardy theme song, which is 30 seconds but actually, 10 more seconds can't hurt!

Fans of Backstreet Boys, like Karina Calderon, are opting for: Shape of My Heart:

"Looking back on the things I've done. I was trying to be someone. I played my part, kept you in the dark. Now let me show you the shape of my heart."

D.L. Preece says that kids might enjoy a round (actually two) of "Row, row, row your boat." And maybe you'll add a third round of "row, row" and devote it to "scratching my palms" to dislodge pathogens under then ails. Sherry Kohn agrees with this song choice, which she learned about as a nursing student at Columbia University.

The late, great Prince gets a shout-out from Lisa Radov: "Raspberry Beret. She wore a raspberry beret, the kind that you get at a secondhand store. Raspberry beret, and if it was warm she wouldn't wear much more. Raspberry beret. I think I love her."

For uplift, Linda Gabriel, an occupational therapist, sings the first verse of "This Little Light of Mine." "It helps me focus on feeling positive through the day," she writes.

Singing isn't the only solution. Susan Hollier suggests reciting the Lord's Prayer twice.

And if you'd like to convert a personal favorite song into a hand-washing accompaniment, try this hand-washing lyrics generator. Type in the song and artist and if it's in the database, you'll get a series of hand-washing steps with lyrics to go along with each step. I tried one of my all-time favorites, "Respect," as sung by Aretha Franklin, and can't wait to start washing.

But maybe I will change up the lyrics a little. The picture of a person putting hands under a spigot is printed over the opening line from "Respect" — "What you want, baby I got it." But it's more like, "What you got, baby I want it!"

Then again, maybe music isn't essential. The hamster in the video below seems like a highly motivated scrubber.

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