Hi Rabbi Hecht,
So I have a question for you. I used to think that upon awakening, after saying mode ani, one washes hands by pouring water on each hand 3 times (right left right left right left) and saying netilat yadayim. I read on chabad.org that one shouldn't say netilat yadaim right away. It said that one should wash hands without bracha, rinse face and mouth, use the restroom, dress, after this wash hands again and only then say netilat yadaim. Is my understanding correct? Thanks.
Correct, There are 2 washings and the second one needs a blessing only.
The second washing besides being with a bracha of Netilat Yadayim also needs to be like the washing of hands for bread. Not in the way that we pour 3 on one consecutively and 3 on other, but that we may not put our hands on the actual wet cup while washing but with a towel, being that the impure water of the cup (either from our wet hands not fully washed or from random water on the cup) spreads impurity and will make your hands in an impure status once again. When all hands are washed with the second washing then we say the bracha thereafter. The first washing upon awaking in the morning we are not concerned of that impurity. The washing can be done freely without using a towel to hold cup being that it is a different impurity we are removing unlike the second one that is similar to washing for bread.