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CD Control Topics

Handwashing Facts and Tips

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing or use of alcohol-based hand rubs has been shown to reduce overall infection rates.

As an alternative to traditional hand washing with soap and water, the Centers for Disease Control is recommending the use of waterless (alcohol-based) hand rubs by healthcare professionals for hand hygiene.

Wash your hands with plain soap and water; or with antimicrobial soap and water if:

  • your hands are visibly soiled (dirty)
  • hands are visibly contaminated with blood or body fluids
  • before eating
  • after using the restroom
  • wash all surfaces thoroughly -- fingers, between fingers, palms, wrists, back of hands

Use a waterless hand-rub for routinely cleaning your hands

  • before having direct contact with patients
  • after having direct contact with a patient’s skin
  • after having contact with body fluids, wounds or broken skin
  • after touching equipment or furniture near the patient
  • after removing gloves
  • Do not use an waterless hand-rub when hands are visibly soiled or contaminated with blood or body fluids.

It is OK to ask healthcare providers if they have cleaned their hands.

According to the Center for Disease Control, waterless hand rubs significantly reduce the number of microorganisms on skin, are fast acting and cause less skin irritation. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, when using waterless (alcohol-based) rubs, apply product to the palm of one hand and rub hands together, covering all surfaces of hands and fingers, until hands are dry.

Waterless hand rubs are well suited for hygienic hand disinfection for the following reasons:

  • optimal antimicrobial spectrum (active against all bacteria and most clinically important viruses, yeasts, and fungi)
  • no wash basin necessary for use and easy availability at bedside;
  • no microbial contamination of health-care workers' clothing
  • rapidity of action.

The use of gloves does not eliminate the need for hand hygiene. 

Nearly 22 million school days are lost due to the common cold alone. Some viruses and bacteria can live from 20 minutes to two hours or more on such surfaces as cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desks.  A study of Detroit school children showed that washing hands at least 4 times a day can reduce stomach illnesses by more than 50 percent.