What is hand hygiene?
It’s when you clean your hands with soap and running water, or with an alcohol-based hand rub.
It’s the most important activity you can do to prevent catching and spreading germs.
When should I do it?
- Water play or other hand activities
- Giving first aid or touching medication
- Inserting or removing contact lenses
- Feeding or giving other personal care (e.g. bathing, cutting nails, etc.)
- Handling food
- Putting on gloves
- Changing a diaper or coming in contact with other bodily fluids (including blood)
- Using the toilet or cleaning up an accident
- Blowing your nose
- Outside activities, play or gardening
- Handling animals or cleaning cages
- Handling raw meat or vegetables
- Working with products that are poisonous (refer to labels on products)
- Removing gloves
And any time your hands are dirty!
What’s wrong with cleaning our hands in a common (shared) tub filled with soapy water?
- It doesn’t clean off the germs, it simply spreads them around.
- Also bad for removing peanut butter residue, for the same reason.
- Okay for removing paint, but must be followed by proper hand hygiene.
Why shouldn’t we clean our hands in a kitchen sink with food in it?
- Food prepared in the sink can become contaminated.
What things make it hard to clean my hands properly?
- Watches and bracelets that slide down onto hands.
- False nails
Which method should I use?
Soap and Water Handwashing
- When hands are visibly dirty
Cleaning hands with soap and water:
- Wet your hands with warm running water and add plain soap (not antibacterial).
- Lather well for at least 15 seconds.
- Scrub between fingers, under and around nails, around back and palms of hands, between fingers, and around the wrist.
- Rinse well under warm running water to remove soap residue.
- Dry hands gently using a clean paper towel or your own personal cloth towel.
- Turn off faucet with the paper towel if used.
- Discard paper towel in the garbage.
- Rub on hand cream to prevent chapping, if you wash hands frequently. Skin that is rough or chapped is more easily infected.
- Keep bar soap in a self-draining, regularly-cleaned holder.
- Keep liquid soap in original container; do not re-fill liquid soap containers that are not designed for re-use.
Alcohol-Based Hand Rubs
- When hands are NOT visibly dirty
- When water or handwashing facilities are not available
- When situations require very frequent hand hygiene
Cleaning hands with alcohol-based hand rubs (the gold standard in healthcare!):
- Apply one pump of handrub to hands.
Rub hands together until dry – approx. 15 seconds.
- Ensure that children and confused people are supervised in using handrubs.
Alcohol hand rubs are available in many locations.
A product containing 60% to 90% alcohol is considered effective for normal hand hygiene. Many home use concentrations are at 62%. Three alcohols are most appropriate for use on the skin: ethyl (ethanol), normal-propyl (n-propyl), and isopropyl. The concentration (%) of alcohol is more important than the type of alcohol contained in the product.