As someone with clammy hands, I feel very self-conscious about shaking hands with others. I can't shake the thought of the other party being repulsed and have sometimes received comments on how clammy my hands are. I can't help but feel embarrassed.

If I anticipate that I will be shaking hands, I try to warm up and dry my hands prior to the exchange and that works well most of the time.

For the events that I can't anticipate, would it be rude to outright decline to shake hands and bluntly explain why? How does one approach this situation respectfully?

  • 4
    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. (cc @Nav)
    – Mithical
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 11:24

7 Answers 7


Shake hands more firmly. From experience, a loose and clammy handshake is more memorable (negatively) than a firm handshake (of whatever state of clamminess).

I don't recall any firm handshakes I've had in the past and thinking "oooh, clammy" afterwards.

Also try other ways of de-clamming (odour free antiperspirant, alcohol hand wipes, etc).

  • 3
    +1 for this answer. I had this exact problem and this solution worked for me too. I would have written almost the same answer, so now I only upvote!
    – Abhigyan
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 13:44
  • 5
    I had no idea that there were antiperspirant hand lotions for hyperhidrosis which is likely the cause of the clamminess. I'll have to try it out now!
    – BlueRidge
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 16:13
  • @BlueRidge It's worth looking into. I just googled up "how to get rid of clammy hands". A doctor may also help with advice.
    – user1722
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 16:16

I used to teach a class on job interviews, and we actually covered this.

The simplest solution is to wipe your hands against your clothes before you shake hands, but make it look like you are doing something else.

Example: If you are sitting get up by bracing your hands on your legs, and wipe your hands on your pants. If you're walking over to someone, pretend to be brushing something off of your shirt, or putting away your cell phone, or whatever else you need to do to make it look like you are not wiping your hands, but wipe your hands.


I have this problem. Everyone sitting around me knows this because it's really bad - I sometimes need to wipe my keyboard when using it for a long time.

I always, always wipe my hands before shaking, it really just takes a moment. I sometimes even smile at them as I wipe my hands and say 'Sorry, sweaty palms'. The person who I'm shaking hands with would also get that moment to understand my problem and prepare themselves for a cold hand shake.


My wife has this problem. She simply wipes her hands before shaking and tries not to worry about what the other person is thinking. If they like you as a person, they'll find clammy hands to be trivial, and worrying about it probably makes the clamminess worse. Just accept that this is how your hands are and how your body works and you do your best but you're not perfect. Cool people won't care about it at all.

  • 3
    If someone does point out you wiping your hand, you could still play it off as a habit from e.g. when you have dirty hands from cooking/gardening/working on a car/...
    – Flater
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 15:15
  • That last second wipe Neve quite work. the closest to a convenient solution is the fist bump maybe with a little explaining in formal situation. There is a plethora of pseudo fixes out there but @zoltar example. And a precedure I heard about called iontotherosis are quite effective. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 7:27

This used to be a big problem for me. At the time I just told people that I had sweaty hands and so I would spare them the handshake. Not a great way to make a first impression though. Wiping your hands doesn't work because they're still clammy and they get sweaty in seconds.

It wasn't just handshakes. Playing guitar or bass, my sweaty hands would rust out the strings. Writing on paper, ink would smear all over. Very inconvenient. Dangerous too. When I was a kid on the monkeybars, I slipped off and busted my chin.

I say all that because you may be able to relate. If so, the following was a life-changer.

Turns out that it was a medical condition called palmar hyperhidrosis. I went in for a surgery called Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy. Basic outpatient procedure and sweaty hands were gone forever. It was about 20 years ago and I'd mostly forgotten about that aspect of my life until reading this question.

Good luck. Write back if you do it. Would love to hear about the difference it makes.


In less formal situations, how about doing a fist bump or some other variant? As a bonus,

one study has recommended that the fist bump be adopted as a more hygienic alternative to greetings such as the handshake or high five.

Additional explanation:

Your apprehension might exacerbate the effect, creating a positive feedback loop. A fist bump avoids palm contact altogether, possibly also improving your anxiety.

Switching to a fist bump is faster than wiping your hands beforehand (sorry for the pun) — especially considering you sometimes have to greet someone with very short notice. It happens quicker and, a side-benefit, the firmness of the handshake is of no concern anymore. Plus, you can't really do a lingering fist bump.

When appropriate, I feel a fist bump also can further lower the formalness of a situation which can in turn favorably curtail any status/social difference. Besides, they might also have clammy hands and you're doing both of yourselves a favor!

For most of the reasons above, I'm personally using this approach as well as when I must greet someone while my hands are dirty/wet from some manual work.


You feel sometimes embarrassed to shake hands with other people, but your question title says greeting others.

Can't you greet people without shaking hands?

In addition to the other answers (focusing on cleaning your hands or preventing them to sweat) my advice is to use alternative greeting forms (which might be culture dependent) like just saying something (hello, hi, good afternoon), raising and/or waving your hand, bowing your head, hugging, kissing, etc.

If shaking hands is a must and you want to avoid it without mentioning clammy hands, you could just say say "I´ve got a cold" and do not raise your hands. People will understand that you are doing this to prevent exposing them to germs.

  • @AytAyt Sure, my suggestion does not work every time, but meeting a new business relation is not that frequent, IMHO. And when it happens is something planned, which gives you the opportunity to prepare for that. Also as the other part in the greeting, I'd feel better not shaking hands with someone who just cleaned them in their clothes. It would leave me thinking "why did he had on his hands?".
    – gmauch
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 20:04
  • 1
    @AytAyt I added this answer hoping that the OP's (or anyone else interested in this question) has a culture and lifestyle more similar to mine where I greet people more often by hugging and kissing than shaking hands. But your points are valid.
    – gmauch
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 20:25
  • Fair enough. If it works for you, it works :)
    – user3316
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 20:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.