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The Most Effective Way to Use Hand Sanitizer

Patrick Boshell
May 24, 2016


Did you know that you may have been cleaning your hands wrong this whole time? A recent study finds that the most effective way to sanitize your hands is the 6 step method recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).


The method was put head to head against the U.S. Center for Disease Control's (CDC) recommended 3 step method by the Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America

Randomly selected healthcare workers at an acute-care teaching hospital were observed using the 6 step method and the 3 step method using an alcohol-based hand rub after patient care. The results showed that the 6 step method was more microbiologically effective in reducing bacterial count. 


The WHO 6 step method process is shown here:



Although the WHO 6 step method was the most effective one, it also took 25 percent more time to complete and during the study only 65% of healthcare workers completed the whole hand hygiene process despite having the instructions in front of them. It is recommended to spend at least 20 seconds on the whole process. 


This says a lot about the way we view hand hygiene. We are generally in a rush and don't necessarily realize the importance of a process like this. However, these processes are backed up by science and are crucial in the prevention of the spread of infections. After all, our hands are responsible for spreading 80% of infections and Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) are the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S. and are responsible for nearly 99,000 deaths each year


When to use Alcohol Hand Sanitizer

The WHO Hand Hygiene guidelines encourage healthcare workers to cleanse their hands with alcohol-based hand rubs for a number of reasons including greater efficacy in reducing microbial counts, less time required to perform a hand hygiene action and less skin irritation compared to hand washing based on frequency. 


The hand hygiene guidelines recommend that:


  1. Visibly dirty hands should be washed because hand rubs do not remove soil from hands
  2. Healthcare workers should use hand creams to reduce skin damage and avoid hot water as it dries out the skin
  3. Hands should be rubbed together until dry after applying hand rub according to the WHO 5 Moments
  4. Hands should be dried with a paper towel or single use cloth following hand washing


If we all adhered to the correct hand hygiene guidelines then it would greatly benefit us all and reduce the spread of infections. When it comes to hand  hygiene, it seems like one thing is certain, if you don't do it right, it's like not doing it at all. 

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