Hand Hygiene Handwashing and Clean Hands Saves Lives

Hand Washing

When are we suppose to wash our hands?

People should wash their hands before eating, after using the restroom, or when their hands are visibly dirty/soiled (especially if contact with blood or bodily fluids has been made). If the preceding  do not apply, handwashing can be substituted by using an alcohol-based hand rub or gel.

Importance of proper handwashing

Everyone knows washing hands regularly is important to a healthy lifestyle and healthcare workers are no exception. Although healthcare professional receive training, not all clinicians practice correct hand washing techniques.

For  some workers it is a behavioral issue while for others it is because washing  frequently becomes painful due to skin problems. Did you know total hand washing time should be at least 15 seconds? It is  easy to see how proper technique can be avoided when people are busy or in a rush. I have to admit that I did not adhere to proper handwashing technique until an infection control nurse taught me the correct way. There are still many who do not know the correct method and for this reason education is one of the most important aspects of improving hand hygiene.

The hands are the main transmitters of microorganisms. Regular handwashing is the effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases including respiratory illnesses. Even regular washing with non-medicated soap will help prevent healthcare-associated infections as it helps in the removal of microorganisms. Using soap containing Triclosan or Chlorhexidine will be more effective as it can reduce the number of certain pathogens on the hands due to their antimicrobial properties. It is important to note that excessive handwashing and utilizing antimicrobial soap contributes to dehydrating  and breaking down the skin. For this reason, it is recommended to combine handwashing while utilizing alcohol-based antiseptic for removing microorganisms on the hands. Localizing harmful pathogens is the best method of reducing healthcare-associated infections for hospitals.

Proper technique for washing hands

Handwashing: Step 1
Handwashing: Step 2
Handwashing: Step 3
Step 1. Wet hands and wrists with lukewarm water. Apply soap. Step 2. Place one palm over the other working the soap into a lather. Step 3. Rub your hands palm to palm, fingers linterlaced.
Handwashing: Step 4
Handwashing: Step 5
Handwashing: Step 6
Step 4. Rub back fingers to opposing fingers interlocked. Be sure to get underneath the fingernails. Step 5. Rotate the right thumb in a rotational manner clasped in left palm and vice versa. Step 6. Rub backwards and forwards while rotating wiith tops of fingers and thumb of right hand in left and vice versa.
Repeat steps 1-6 until hands are clean. Wash hands for at least 15 seconds.
Hand Washing References
  • Steere AC, Mallison GF. Handwashing practices for the prevention of nosocomial infections. Ann Intern Med 1975;83:683-90.
  • Pittet D, Donaldson L. Clean Care is Safer Care: a worldwide priority. Lancet. 2005;366(9493);1246-1247.
  • Cardoso CL, Pereira HH, Zequim JC, Guilhermetti M. Effectiveness of hand-cleansing agents for removing Acinetobacter baumannii strain from contaminated hands. American Journal of Infection Control. 1999;27:327-31.
  • Taylor LS. An evaluation of handwashing techniques. Nursing Times. 1978; 74:54-55, 108-111.
  • Larson EL. APIC guidelines for handwashing and hand antisepsis in health care settings. American Journal of Infection Control. 1995;23:251-269.