Everyone knows the importance of hand washing, but that doesn't mean everyone does it. To draw attention to the connection between staying healthy and clean hands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is opening a multi-media art exhibition called "Watching Hands: Artists Respond to Keeping Well" on Sept. 24.

The exhibit, which coincides with National Clean Hands Week (Sept. 18-24), showcases the importance of good hand hygiene practices through various media including vinyl installations, graphic design, video projection, drawings, paintings and sculpture. Arists John Bankston, Didi Dunphy, Joe Peragine, Katherine L. Ross, Laura Splan, and James Victore offer their interpretations, "stretching "the boundaries of current public health campaigns," according to the museum website.

"Watching Hands" is supported by the CDC Foundation and a gift from paper-goods maker Georgia-Pacific Professional. The exhibit is part of the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian.

"The David J. Sencer CDC Museum offers unique opportunities to share CDC's work and health messages with the Atlanta community and the thousands of individuals who visit CDC from all over the world," Charles Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation, said in a prepared statement when the exhibit was first announced. "We are grateful to Georgia-Pacific Professional for helping CDC create this exhibit and promote hand hygiene in this artful, experiential way."

Why would the CDC put on an exhibit about washing your hands? "Recent infection prevention campaigns have pinpointed handwashing as the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease," said Louise E. Shaw, curator of the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, in a prepared statement. "This exhibition offers an artistic perspective of such an important public health issue."

So what are good hand washing techniques? The CDC says that thoroughly washing with soap and water is more effective than alcohol-based hand-sanitizers, which in tests did not significantly reduce the presence of noroviruses. The CDC did find, however, that using hand sanitizers is a good strategy between regular hand washings.

The "Watching Hands" exhibit runs through Jan. 13, 2012.

If you want to know even more about hand washing, you can sign up for a free webinar for educators and health professionals, coming October 3 from the American Cleaning Institute.

The art of hand washing
Artists to contribute to exhibit covering history and health benefits of clean hands.