(Newswise)–Cleaning hands with either soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers can effectively prevent the spread of bacterial or viral infections. The December issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers information and tips to help ensure clean hands. For killing germs on unsoiled hands, hand sanitizers are more effective than washing. The sanitizer gel should cover all surfaces of the hands, wrists, cuticles, fingernails and between the fingers and thumbs. Washing with soap and water is still important before eating, after using the bathroom and when hands are dirty. Consider these tips: Work up lather: Using warm water and soap, lather the wrists, cuticles and areas between the fingers and thumbs. Hands should be covered in lather for at least 15 seconds. Focus on the fingertips and areas around the fingernails: Thoroughly clean this often-neglected area when washing with soap or using hand sanitizers. Press the fingertips of one hand into the cupped palm of the other hand and rotate the fingertips in a circle. Repeat with the other hand. Avoid the faucet: Once hands are clean, avoid touching the faucet. Hold a paper towel or use the tip of the wrist or an elbow to turn off the faucet.