Apple Watch̵7;s watchOS 7 update introduced a smart new feature for anyone concerned about hand hygiene in a post-COVID world: handwashing detection. How it works and how you can turn it on or off.
How to enable or disable handwashing detection
To enable or disable handwashing detection, first launch the Watch app on your iPhone.
Scroll down to find the Handwash section and press the “Handwash timer” option to enable it (or to disable it if it is already enabled.)
You can also enable handwashing reminders, which send a push notification if your watch detects that you have not washed your hands within minutes of returning home.
You can also enable or disable the timer directly from your Apple Watch. Launch the Settings app, then enable Handwash Timer in the Handwash section.
If the option is not available, you will probably need to install the watchOS update. You need to install iOS 14 to do this, then you can go to Watch> General> Software Update to apply the update.
How handwash detection works
When the timer is activated, your Apple Watch activates a 20 second countdown when it thinks you are washing your hands. The clock detects the sound of running water and movement patterns associated with foaming and scrubbing your hands to start the timer.
Your iPhone taps your wrist when the timer starts and presses twice when the countdown is complete. If you move your wrist to check the clock, the pause will pause until you return to scrubbing.
There is a slight delay between when you start washing your hands and when the timer starts, which Apple stands for by reducing the timer appropriately. The 20-second window may feel a little short to you if you have sung “Happy Birthday” twice in your head, as some have suggested during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With your hands neat and clean, your Apple Watch will show its thumbs up to show that you’m done. If you get tired of the feature, you can go back to the Watch app and disable the hand wash timer in the Hand Wash section (or start Settings> Hand Wash on your Apple Watch).
The good news is that hand washing detection works well. The timer starts in about five seconds and congratulates you on a job well done. You do not have to count to 20 in your head anymore because the Apple Watch is more accurate.
One problem you may encounter is false positive things when cleaning vegetables or dishes in the sink or the like.
How to view your hand wash data
While the hand wash timer is activated, your Apple Watch logs every time you wash your hands under the Health app. It also logs the duration of each wash and average time over a day, week, month or year. After testing, this information does not appear to be logged unless you explicitly enable the hand wash timer.
You can see 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 shows it in your health instrument panel when you launch the app. This information does not seem to be useful in addition to bragging to your friends about how spotless your numbers are.
Now that your hands are clean, why not disinfect your iPhone as well?
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