With the watchOS 7 update of the Apple Watch, an intelligent new function has been introduced for everyone concerned with hand hygiene in a post-COVID world: hand washing detection. Here̵
Activate or deactivate hand washing detection
To activate or deactivate the hand washing detection, first start the watch app on your iPhone.
Scroll down to find the Hand Wash section and tap the Hand Wash Timer option to enable it (or to disable it if it is already enabled).
You can also turn on hand washing reminders, which will send you a push notification when your watch detects that you haven’t washed your hands within minutes of your return home.
You can also turn the timer on or off right on your Apple Watch. Start the Settings app and activate the hand wash timer in the Hand wash section.
If you don’t see the available option, you probably need to install the watchOS update. IOS 14 must be installed for this. You can then apply the update under Monitor> General> Software update.
How hand washing detection works
When the timer is on, your Apple Watch will start a 20 second countdown when you think you are washing your hands. The watch detects the sound of running water and movement patterns associated with soaping and scrubbing your hands to start the timer.
Your iPhone taps your wrist when the timer starts and twice when the countdown is complete. Moving your wrist to check your watch will pause the timer until you start scrubbing again.
There is a slight delay between the time you start washing your hands and turning on the timer, which Apple takes into account by reducing the timer accordingly. The 20 second window might feel a little short to you if you’ve been singing “Happy Birthday” twice in your head, as some suggested during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When your hands are nice and clean, your Apple Watch will display a thumbs up to indicate that you are done. When you’re fed up with the feature, you can return to the Watch app and turn off the handwashing timer in the Handwashing section (or Settings> Start Handwashing on your Apple Watch).
The good news is that hand washing detection works fine. The timer starts within five seconds and congratulates you on a job well done. You no longer have to count to 20 in your head as the Apple Watch is more accurate.
One problem you might run into is false positives when cleaning vegetables or dishes in a kitchen sink or the like.
Here’s how to see your hand washing data
While the hand wash timer is activated, your Apple Watch logs every time you wash your hands under the health app. In addition, the duration of each wash is logged and your time is averaged over a day, week, month or year. After testing, this information only seems to be logged if you explicitly enable the hand washing timer.
You can view your hand hygiene data in the Health app under Health> Other Data. At the bottom there is an option to add the feature to your favorites which will appear in your health dashboard when you launch the app. However, it doesn’t seem like this data is useful other than bragging to your friends about how pristine your digits are.
Now that your hands are clean, it’s time to sanitize your iPhone too.
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