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In honor of Global Handwashing Day: Songs to sing while washing your hands
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In honor of Global Handwashing Day: Songs to sing while washing your hands

Beat the Coronavirus by following these washing instructions while singing one of your favorite songs. Go to

How many times have you heard you should wash your hands frequently, and for at least 20 seconds? In these days of coronavirus fears, it’s even more important than ever.

How long is 20 seconds?

No one puts a stopwatch near the bathroom sink, and if they did, it would be a germ factory like everything else because you’d have to start it before you wash.

So you sing a song. Kids are often taught to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep” or the “A-B-C” song. They all use the same tune and take about 20 seconds.

You can also sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Either way, you’re likely to get sick of these ditties.

Never fear. There are plenty of other ear worms — um, we meant songs — that have 20-second choruses.

You can choose a different one each day.

“Africa,” by Toto, has a chorus that’s about 20 seconds: It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you / There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do / I bless the rains down in Africa / Gonna take some time to do the things we never had / Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you.

— Written by David F. Paich and Jeffrey T. Porcaro.

“Stayin’ Alive,” by the BeeGees, works and it’s rhythm is also perfect for CPR:

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother / You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive / Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’ / And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive / Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive / Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.

— Written by the BeeGees.

If you’re a child of the 1970s, try a little “Dancing Queen,” by ABBA: You are the dancing queen/ Young and sweet / Only seventeen / Dancing queen / Feel the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah/ You can dance/ You can jive/ Having the time of your life/ Ooh, see that girl/ Watch that scene/ Dig in the dancing queen.

— Written by Benny Andersson, Bjoern K. Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson.

If those don’t work for you, try the choruses of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” Beyoncé’s “Love on Top,” or Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”

And, yes, there are newer songs that work as well, but we all need something we know well.

“Bear Down, Arizona” takes closer to 30 seconds, but there’s nothing wrong with a little extra washing.

Nerds can hum the Star Wars Imperial March or recite the opening speech to Star Trek: “Space, the final frontier…” — if you’re a Trekkie, you know it by heart.

Just remember to sing (even if you are only singing in your head) in the rhythm you’ve heard the song as performed by the artist; don’t just recite the words quickly.

If you have a favorite song you’d prefer to wash to, you’re in luck. An enterprising man named William Gibson has adapted a graphic from the World Health Organization and combined it with song lyrics from Genius.

Go to, put in the name of the song you want and the artist, and you’ll get a downloadable hand-washing poster with the song lyrics beneath each picture.

They last a bit longer than 20 seconds because they include turning on and off the water — off with your elbow — and drying your hands with paper towels.

It’s not perfect, but it’s close enough for cleanliness. We tried it successfully with “Yesterday,” by The Beatles, and “We Will Rock You,” by Queen. Maybe it even works with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Contact Johanna Eubank at

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Online producer

Johanna Eubank is a digital producer for the Arizona Daily Star and She has been with the Star in various capacities since 1991.

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