Hand Hygiene Handwashing and Clean Hands Saves Lives

Hand Sanitizers: Antiseptic Soap & Alcohol-based Rubs


What is hand antisepsis?

Hand antisepsis refers to using either antimicrobial handwash or antiseptic hand rub that has the fastest and broadest antimicrobial efficacy. Alcohol-rub is  effective in achieving  high  efficacy of antimicrobials.

Importance of using hand antisepsis in health care

Although basic handwashing is effective in removing microorganisms, it is not as effective as using an antisepsis product that actually kills pathogens. This means healthcare professionals are at risk of spreading harmful pathogens without the use of antisepsis products. When using antimicrobial soap containing Triclosan or Chlorhexidine gluconate or alcohol-based antiseptic rub/gel, the microorganisms are  killed.

Antimicrobial soap. Triclosan and Chlorhexidine gluconate are the primary active agents in antimicrobial soap. There are studies that show certain antimicrobial soap contributing to reducing the number of MRSA infections in facilities. Although these compounds kill at a slower rate, using antimicrobial soap is needed in the absence of alcohol-based antiseptic rub/gel.

Alcohol-based antiseptic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommends healthcare workers using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to disinfect hands. Using 60-95% alcohol (by weight) rub or gel has the highest efficacy rate in killing a broad range of microorganisms. According to the CDC, alcohol-based antiseptic should be used before and after coming into contact with patients (including before and after donning gloves) to protect against bacteria (including MRSA and Salmonella), fungi, and numerous viruses (including HIV, HBV, HCV). One of the best properties of alcohol-based antiseptic product is the persistent and residual effect it gives the clinician. This means that the hands are disinfected of pathogens for a period of time after application.

Proper Technique For Applying Alcohol-based Antisepsis Hand Sanitizers

Applying Antisepsitic: Step 1
Applying Antisepsitic: Step 2
Applying Antisepsitic: Step 3
Step 1. Cup your hand and apply product. Clasp your fingers of the other hand and be sure to apply product under your nails and cuticles. Step 2. Rub your palms together. Be sure to apply product on your wrists. Step 3. Rub the back of your hand while your fingers are interlaced.
Applying Antisepsitic: Step 4
Applying Antisepsitic: Step 5
Applying Antisepsitic: Step 6
Step 4. Rub your hands with your palms together with your fingers interlaced. Step 5. Rub your fingers with your opposing palms to ensure you apply the top of your fingers. Step 6. Rub your thumbs in a rotation with your palms.
Apply product for each hand following shown steps. Rub hand sanitizer until hands are dry.

Hand Sanitizer References

  • Zaragoza M, Salles M, Gomez J, Bayas JM, Trilla A. Handwashing with soap or alcoholic solutions? A randomized clinical trial of its effectiveness. American Journal of Infection Control. 1999;27:258-61.
  • Larson E, Girard R, Pessoa-Silva CL, Boyce J, Donaldson L, Pittet D. Skin reactions related to hand hygiene and selection of hand hygiene products. American Journal of Infection Control. 2006;34:627-635.
  • Maury E, Alzieu M, Baudel JL et al. Availability of an alcohol solution can improve hand disinfection compliance in an intensive care unit. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2000;162:324-327.
  • Harrington C, Walker H. The germicidal action of alcohol. Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. 1903;148:548-52.