Hand hygiene technique
Technique using alcohol-based handrub
Correct use of alcohol-based handrub involves dispensing the volume of handrub recommended in the product information, rubbing vigorously over all surfaces of hands, and continuing to rub until hands are completely dry (eg 20–30 seconds) (Table 2.1. Methods of hand hygiene).
Technique using liquid hand cleansers
Correct use of liquid handwash or liquid antimicrobial cleanser involves wetting hands under tepid water, dispensing the volume of handrub recommended in the product information, rubbing vigorously over all surfaces of hands (minimum of 20 seconds), rinsing thoroughly, and patting hands dry (Table 2.1. Methods of hand hygiene).
If liquid handwash and water is used for hand hygiene, hands must be thoroughly dried afterwards, using a patting (not rubbing) action. The use of paper towels is now considered to be best practice and it should be supplied wherever liquid handwash and water is used for hand hygiene. If cloth towels are used, they should be used only once and then laundered appropriately (see 9. Cleaning, laundry and waste management).
Incomplete drying can cause chapping/chafing and skin damage, which favours bacterial growth and can lead to colonisation with potentially pathogenic microorganisms – increasing the risk of transmission to patients during procedures.
Drying hands after routine handwashing: Single-use paper towels should be used for drying hands in treatment areas, consulting areas and equipment reprocessing areas.
Hot air dryers are unsuitable for clinical use. Jet dryers achieve quicker drying times, which reduces microorganism growth on hands, but they increase the spread of microorganisms through the air. Slower hot air dryers reduce the spread of microorganisms through the air, but the slower drying times result in more microorganism growth on hands. The use of hot air driers is acceptable only in toilets.
Drying hands for standard aseptic procedures: If a liquid cleanser (eg soap and water) is used for hand hygiene before standard aseptic procedures, hands must be dried, ideally using disposable paper towels.
Drying hands for surgical aseptic procedures
If a liquid cleanser (eg antimicrobial soap) is used for hand hygiene before surgical aseptic procedures, sterile disposable paper towels or single-use sterile cloths must be used for drying hands. Reusable sterile cloths must be laundered appropriately (see 9. Cleaning, laundry and waste management).