Italian Phrase of the Week: Lavati le mani! (Wash your hands!)

Something all parents must teach their kids as they grow up is the importance of washing one’s hands, which translates as lavarsi le mani in Italian.

This clause is made up of three parts:

lavarsi (reflexive verb ‘to wash oneself‘) + le (definite article ‘the‘) + mani (‘hands‘)

Below you can see the straightforward conjugation of lavarsi le mani in the present tense for all the various personal pronouns:

(Io) mi lavo le mani

(Tu) ti lavi le mani

(Lui/lei) si lava le mani

(Noi) ci laviamo le mani

(Voi) vi lavate le mani

(Loro) si lavano le mani

I wash my hands

You wash your hands

He/she washes his/her hands

We wash our hands

You all wash your hands

They wash their hands

In order to create the command Wash your hands! however, it is necessary to transform lavarsi into the imperative tense. This would be either:

  • Lavati le mani! = Wash your hands! (for an individual)
  • Lavatevi le mani! = Wash your hands! (for groups)

Lavati le mani, Carlo! La cena è pronta!

Wash your hands, Carlo! Dinner is ready!


A tavola bimbi, ma prima lavatevi le mani!

To the table, kids, but first wash your hands!


To say wash your hands well, all you have to do is insert the word bene (well) in between lavarsi and le mani as in the following example.

È importante lavarsi bene le mani per almeno 20 secondi.

It’s important to wash your hands well for at least 20 seconds.


A useful expression that Italian and English share is lavarsi le mani di qualcosa/qualcuno (to wash one’s hands of something/someone) or more simply, lavarsene le mani (to wash one’s hands of it). In both languages, it means to disclaim all responsibility for something.

Il capo si è lavato le mani di questa situazione e ora mi devo arrangiare!

The boss washed his hands of this situation and now I have to deal with it myself!


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