Mac & Apple

How Apple Watch can remind you to wash your hands (because COVID)


Since watchOS 7 and iOS 14 arrived it is now possible to set your Apple Watch (Series 4 and upwards) to count down the time when washing your hands and remind you to wash your hands as soon as you get home.

You might be thinking that sounds a bit patronising. Do you really need your watch to remind you to wash your hands, you have your mum for that right? Well in the current climate it might just be a good way to improve your chances of not getting or spreading Coronavirus, so maybe it’s not a bad thing to set it up on your Watch.

Some Google wearOS watches have had a similar feature since the spring. However that had to be actively started every time for the smartwatch to count the time when washing hands.

You might think that this hand washing feature is in response to COVID-19, but according to Apple, the hand washing function has been in development for years. It is based on the detection of noises and hand movements that are typical when washing. If the microphone detects the typical splashing and the motion sensor – hands rubbing together, the Apple Watch starts the corresponding timer.

Read about watchOS 7 here.

How to set up hand washing on Apple Watch

To set up your Apple Watch to help with hand washing follow these steps:

  1. Open the Watch app on the partner iPhone and go to Settings.
  2. In the list of available apps on the first screen you will find the app located between Noise and Health.
  3. You have to activate hand washing. You will find the Timer for hand washing controller in the Watch app’s settings.

How to set a reminder to wash hands

You will also find the option Reminders for hand washing. With this setting selected the app will determine that you have been home for a few minutes and will remind you to wash your hands.

For this to work you will need to approve your location being used by the app. Select Allow when using the app. Now the Watch will recognise that you are home and it will suggest that you wash your hands.

How the Apple Watch measures hand washing

When the Apple Watch detects that you are washing your hands it will send haptic feedback to your wrist.

You will also see a stylized timer with soap bubbles appear on the Watch face while washing your hands.

After 20 seconds have passed you will see a thumbs up.

How Apple Watch hand washing

We have been using the function since summer with the watchOS 7 Beta, it appears that the more you wash your hands, the more precise the function gets when it comes to detecting hand washing (although that could just have been the limitations of the early betas).

The Apple Watch can experience some problems identifying hand washing in unfamiliar bathrooms, perhaps because every wash basin sounds different, so that the algorithm cannot always recognise the situation in the new environment.

How to see handwashing data

The Apple Watch collects data on hand washing in the Health app.

This information can be viewed on the iPhone in the Health app under Discover > Other data.

In the daily, weekly, monthly and annual overview, you can see the data about your hand washing.

Under Show data at the bottom of the overview you will find the entire list of recorded hand washing units and, if desired, you can delete the false positives, i.e. the units in which the Apple Watch detected hand washing that was not.

Read more about the Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch SE. Plus how to install watchOS 7.

Find a good deal on an Apple Watch here.

This article originally appeared on Macwelt.