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How to Use the New Handwashing Timer in watchOS 7

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been constantly admonished to wash our hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds after touching any surface that might harbor the virus. watchOS 7 (released on September 16, 2020) includes a helpful handwashing timer and reminder app that, when enabled, tells you just how long to keep washing your hands and even tells you to wash your hands when you get home.

Here’s how the Apple Watch Handwashing timer works:

To enable handwashing detection in watchOS 7, follow the directions listed below
To enable handwashing detection in watchOS 7, follow the directions listed below

By default, handwashing detection is disabled, so you’ll need to enable it.

  1. On your Watch, launch the Settings app. The icon looks like a gear, similar to that used for System Preferences on the Mac and for Settings on iOS and iPadOS.
  2. Using your finger on the screen or by turning the Digital Crown, scroll down the screen until you see Handwashing.
  3. Tap Handwashing, then tap “Handwashing Timer” so that the white button turns green, indicating that it is enabled.
  4. If you prefer to be notified when your hands are clean through a vibration rather than sound, tap the Haptics button.
Your Apple Watch counts down the time, then signals that your hands are clean with a chime and a soapy thumbs-up
Your Apple Watch counts down the time, then signals that your hands are clean with a chime and a soapy thumbs-up

What happens when you begin washing your hands is somewhat magical! The Watch appears to use a combination of sound detection and the movements of handwashing to start the timer. You may see a slight delay once you start washing your hands – I found it takes about five seconds to respond – but the timer is pretty accurate in terms of measuring the total 20 second-hand wash. By the way, if you stop washing your hands during the process, the timer pauses… so get that 20-second wash done.

One other thing…

Once you enable handwashing detection, it may not work right off the bat. I noticed that it took about four hours before it started working. A lot of people are reporting that handwashing detection isn’t working; just be patient and it will work.

Related: Deeper Dive: A Detailed Look at Apple’s September 15, 2020 Event

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve is the publisher of Apple World Today, a website providing news, reviews and how-tos for the world of Apple, as well as an author on The Rocket Yard. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist.
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