Preventive Hand Hygiene

Continuing education online courses in Preventative Hand Hygiene.

H17. Preventative Care: Preventative Hand Hygiene, 30 CE-hours, $63

START the course here. TAKE exam at the end.  PAY after the exam.

Description: This course presents infection control with an emphasis on (1) The history and physiology of hand hygiene, (2) Hand hygiene facts, (3) Antiseptic agents for hand hygiene for Healthcare and non-healthcare professionals, and (4) Techniques and methods of hand hygiene.

Objectives: At the end of this course, you will (1) List how, when and why you need to wash your hands, (2) Identify best pracites for hand hygiene and verbally differentiate when to use hand rubs versus hand washing techniques, (3) Describe the history and physiology of hand hygiene, (4) Explain hand hygiene guidelines, and (5) Analyze various antiseptic agents.

Course Format: Study the online linked resources and lectures that you can use anytime 24/7. Watch the linked video and view the two slide shows linked in the reference section. One multi-choice test.

Course Developers and Instructors: R. Klimes, PhD, MPH (John Hopkins U), author of articles on infection control and hygiene. Heather Hawkins, DMD (Nova Southeastern U), specialist in infection control.

Course Time: About three hours for online study, test taking with course evaluation feedback, and certificate printing.

Take the Hand Hygiene Pre-tests. Module 1:

Course Test: Click here for the test that requires 75% for a passing grade.

1. Introduction

Why is Hand Hygiene important?

Cross contamination: spreading microorganisms from one patient/object to another. Most often occurs via hands!

Clean hands are key to prevent:

  • Infections acquired in healthcare
  • Spread of antimicrobial resistance

Hand Hygiene is one of the areas in the field of infection control. The purpose of hand hygiene is infection control. The most common agents for hand hygiene are alcohol-based handrubs (70% isopropanol) and plain soap. With the first agent, the bacterial reduction is usually 99%, with the second about 90%.

All Healthcare practice employees wash hands with either a non-antimicrobial soap and water or antimicrobial soap and water when hands are visibly dirty or contaminated with proteinaceous material or are visibly soiled with blood or other body fluids.

Antimicrobial-impregnated wipes (i.e., towelettes) may be considered as an alternative to washing hands with non-antimicrobial soap and water. Because they are not as effective as alcohol-based hand rubs or washing hands with non-antimicrobial soap and water. Because they are not as effective as alcohol-based hand rubs or washing hands with an antimicrobial soap and water for reducing bacterial counts on the hands of employees, they are not a substitute for using an alcohol-based rub or antimicrobial soap.

If hands are not visibly soiled, Healthcare employees use an alcohol-based hand rub or wash with an antimicrobial soap and water for routinely decontaminating hands.



  • Hand hygiene: Performing hand washing, antiseptic hand wash, alcohol-based hand rub, surgical hand hygiene/antisepsis
  • Hand washing: Washing hands with plain soap and water
  • Antiseptic hand wash: Washing hands with water and soap or other detergents containing an antiseptic agent
  • Alcohol-based hand rub: Rubbing hands with an alcohol-containing preparation
  • Surgical hand hygiene/antisepsis: Hand washing or using an alcohol-based hand rub before operations by surgical personnel

General Indications for Hand Hygiene:

  • When hands are visibly dirty, contaminated, or soiled, wash with non-antimicrobial or antimicrobial soap and water.
  • If hands are not visibly soiled, use an alcohol-based hand rub for routinely decontaminating hands.

Source: Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-care Settings. MMWR 2002;vol. 51, no. RR-16

he two most common techniques are handrchnanHows

1.1. Wet your hands with warm running water.

1.2. Apply liquid or clean bar soap.

1.3. Away from the running water, rub your hands together vigorously and make a soapy lather. Scrub all surfaces, the front, the back and under your fingernails. A finger has five parts, the four sides and the top side. Scrub them all. Take about 15-20 seconds, the time it would take to count normally from 21 to 36 or 41. A fast splashing does not remove germs.

1.4.  The soap together with the scrubbing action dislodges the germs.

1.5. Rinse well under warm running water to remove the germs and dry you hands with a clean towel. Turn off the water with a paper towel.


Hand rubs

  • Apply to palm of one hand, rub hands together covering all surfaces until dry
  • Volume: based on manufacturer

Hand washing

  • Wet hands with water, apply soap, and rub hands together for at least 15 seconds, covering all surfaces of hands and fingers.
  • Rinse and dry with disposable towel
  • Use towel to turn off faucet,

Please watch the following Video that summarizing basic hand washing techniques and principles. Video Link:



2a. When to Wash your Hands

2.1. Before and after you prepare or consume food.

2.2  After you sneeze or use the bathroom.

2.3  After you handle or touch animals, animal waste, or any waste.

2.4  After you work and when your hands are dirty.

2.5  After you are in contact with a sick person.

2b. When to Wash your Hands: Healthcare Personnel

2.6 Before having direct contact with patients;

2.7 Before donning sterile gloves when inserting a central intravascular catheter;

2.8 Before inserting indwelling urinary catheters, peripheral vascular catheters, or other invasive devices that do not require a surgical procedure;

2.9 After coming into contact with a patient’s intact skin (e.g., when taking a pulse or blood pressure, and lifting a patient);

2.10 After coming into contact with body fluids or excretions, mucous membranes, non-intact skin, and wound dressings if hands are not visibly soiled; patient care;

2.11 If moving from a contaminated body site to a clean body site during patient care

2.12 After coming into contact with inanimate objects (including medical equipment) in the immediate vicinity of the patient; and after removing gloves.

2.13 All Practice employees wash hands with a non-antimicrobial soap and water or with an antimicrobial soap and water before eating and after using a restroom.

2.14 All Practice employees wash hands with non-antimicrobial soap and water or with antimicrobial soap and water if exposure to Bacillus anthracis is suspected or proven. The physical action of washing and rinsing hands under such circumstances is recommended because alcohols, chlorhexidine, iodophors, and other antiseptic agents have poor activity against spores.

Hand Washing Best Practice Tips:

  • When hands are visibly soiled
  • After skin contact with blood or other body fluids
  • Prior to eating or drinking
  • After use of the toilet
  • When contact with spores such as C. difficile or B anthracis is likely to have occurred

Source: Why wash your hands

3. Why Wash your Hands

3.1. To remove germs from your hands and environment.

3.2 To reduce the occurrence of infections for yourself and others.

3.3 To stop passing on diseases.

 How to use your hands

4.  Help Avoiding Germs

4.1. Where Germs Enter the Body

Keep your hands always away from your eyes, nose and mouth. That is where most germs enter.


4.2 Communal Surfaces Share Germs

Avoid touching surfaces that are constantly being touched by others. You are likely to pick up someone’s germs.

4.3. Germ Longevity

Some viruses and bacteria can live from 20 minutes up to 2 hours or more on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks.

Patient Care Best Practice Tips:

“Clean”, routine tasks which may also cause contamination of hands:

  • Lifting a patient
  • Taking vital signs
  • Touching a patient’s hand, shoulder or other body area
  • Feeding/playing with an infant
  • Touching items in a patient’s room, or previously used equipment

4.4 Germs are passed on in droplets when people cough or sneeze. They travel about three feet and settle anywhere, and then may be picked up by someone’s hands. Proper hand-washing reduces disease.

Healthcare Prophylaxis Best Practice Tips:

  • Always wear gloves when possible contact with blood or potentially infectious materials.
  • Remove gloves after caring for each patient
  • Do not reuse gloves
  • Do not wash gloves

4.5 Do not share a towel.

4.6 If warm water is not available, use rubbing alcohol.

5-Step Infection Control:

1. Wash hands with soap
2. Clean patient’s skin with chlorhexidine antiseptic
3. Put sterile drapes on the entire patient
4. Wear sterile gown and mask
5. Put sterile dressing over the insertion site and

5. Review of the Scientific Data Regarding Hand Hygiene

Source: CDC (Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee and the HICPAC/SHEA/APIC/IDSA Hand Hygiene Task Force)

5.1 Historical Perspective

For generations, handwashing with soap and water has been considered a measure of personal hygiene. The concept of cleansing hands with an antiseptic agent probably emerged in the early 19th century. As early as 1822, a French pharmacist demonstrated that solutions containing chlorides of lime or soda could eradicate the foul odors associated with human corpses and that such solutions could be used as disinfectants and antiseptics. In a paper published in 1825, this pharmacist stated that physicians and other persons attending patients with contagious diseases would benefit from moistening their hands with a liquid chloride solution.In 1846, Ignaz Semmelweis observed that women whose babies were delivered by students and physicians in the First Clinic at the General Hospital of Vienna consistently had a higher mortality rate than those whose babies were delivered by midwives in the Second Clinic. He noted that physicians who went directly from the autopsy suite to the obstetrics ward had a disagreeable odor on their hands despite washing their hands with soap and water upon entering the obstetrics clinic. He postulated that the puerperal fever that affected so many parturient women was caused by “cadaverous particles” transmitted from the autopsy suite to the obstetrics ward via the hands of students and physicians. Perhaps because of the known deodorizing effect of chlorine compounds, as of May 1847, he insisted that students and physicians clean their hands with a chlorine solution between each patient in the clinic. The maternal mortality rate in the First Clinic subsequently dropped dramatically and remained low for years. This intervention by Semmelweis represents the first evidence indicating that cleansing heavily contaminated hands with an antiseptic agent between patient contacts may reduce health-care–associated transmission of contagious diseases more effectively than handwashing with plain soap and water.In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes concluded independently that puerperal fever was spread by the hands of health personnel. Although he described measures that could be taken to limit its spread, his recommendations had little impact on obstetric practices at the time. However, as a result of the seminal studies by Semmelweis and Holmes, handwashing gradually became accepted as one of the most important measures for preventing transmission of pathogens in health-care facilities.In 1961, the U. S. Public Health Service produced a training film that demonstrated handwashing techniques recommended for use by health-care workers (HCWs).. At the time, recommendations directed that personnel wash their hands with soap and water for 1–2 minutes before and after patient contact. Rinsing hands with an antiseptic agent was believed to be less effective than handwashing and was recommended only in emergencies or in areas where sinks were unavailable.In 1975 and 1985, formal written guidelines on handwashing practices in hospitals were published by CDC. These guidelines recommended handwashing with non-antimicrobial soap between the majority of patient contacts and washing with antimicrobial soap before and after performing invasive procedures or caring for patients at high risk. Use of waterless antiseptic agents (e.g., alcohol-based solutions) was recommended only in situations where sinks were not available.In 1988 and 1995, guidelines for handwashing and hand antisepsis were published by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC). Recommended indications for handwashing were similar to those listed in the CDC guidelines. The 1995 APIC guideline included more detailed discussion of alcohol-based hand rubs and supported their use in more clinical settings than had been recommended in earlier guidelines. In 1995 and 1996, the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) recommended that either antimicrobial soap or a waterless antiseptic agent be used for cleaning hands upon leaving the rooms of patients with multidrug-resistant pathogens (e.g., vancomycin-resistant enterococci [VRE] and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA]). These guidelines also provided recommendations for handwashing and hand antisepsis in other clinical settings, including routine patient care. Although the APIC and HICPAC guidelines have been adopted by the majority of hospitals, adherence of HCWs to recommended handwashing practices has remained low.Recent developments in the field have stimulated a review of the scientific data regarding hand hygiene and the development of new guidelines designed to improve hand-hygiene practices in health-care facilities. This literature review and accompanying recommendations have been prepared by a Hand Hygiene Task Force, comprising representatives from HICPAC, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), APIC, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

5.2 Normal Bacterial Skin Flora

To understand the objectives of different approaches to hand cleansing, a knowledge of normal bacterial skin flora is essential. Normal human skin is colonized with bacteria; different areas of the body have varied total aerobic bacterial counts (e.g., 1 x 106 colony forming units (CFUs)/cm2 on the scalp, 5 x 105 CFUs/cm2 in the axilla, 4 x 104 CFUs/cm2 on the abdomen, and 1 x 104 CFUs/cm2 on the forearm) (13). Total bacterial counts on the hands of medical personnel have ranged from 3.9 x 104 to 4.6 x 106. In 1938, bacteria recovered from the hands were divided into two categories: transient and resident. Transient flora, which colonize the superficial layers of the skin, are more amenable to removal by routine handwashing. They are often acquired by HCWs during direct contact with patients or contact with contaminated environmental surfaces within close proximity of the patient. Transient flora are the organisms most frequently associated with health-care–associated infections. Resident flora, which are attached to deeper layers of the skin, are more resistant to removal. In addition, resident flora (e.g., coagulase-negative staphylococci and diphtheroids) are less likely to be associated with such infections. The hands of HCWs may become persistently colonized with pathogenic flora (e.g., S. aureus), gram-negative bacilli, or yeast. Investigators have documented that, although the number of transient and resident flora varies considerably from person to person, it is often relatively constant for any specific person.


5.3 Physiology of Normal Skin

The primary function of the skin is to reduce water loss, provide protection against abrasive action and microorganisms, and act as a permeability barrier to the environment. The basic structure of skin includes, from outer- to inner-most layer, the superficial region (i.e., the stratum corneum or horny layer, which is 10- to 20-µm thick), the viable epidermis (50- to 100-µm thick), the dermis (1- to 2-mm thick), and the hypodermis (1- to 2-mm thick). The barrier to percutaneous absorption lies within the stratum corneum, the thinnest and smallest compartment of the skin. The stratum corneum contains the corneocytes (or horny cells), which are flat, polyhedral-shaped nonnucleated cells, remnants of the terminally differentiated keratinocytes located in the viable epidermis. Corneocytes are composed primarily of insoluble bundled keratins surrounded by a cell envelope stabilized by cross-linked proteins and covalently bound lipid. Interconnecting the corneocytes of the stratum corneum are polar structures (e.g., corneodesmosomes), which contribute to stratum corneum cohesion.

The intercellular region of the stratum corneum is composed of lipid primarily generated from the exocytosis of lamellar bodies during the terminal differentiation of the keratinocytes. The intercellular lipid is required for a competent skin barrier and forms the only continuous domain. Directly under the stratum corneum is a stratified epidermis, which is composed primarily of 10–20 layers of keratinizing epithelial cells that are responsible for the synthesis of the stratum corneum. This layer also contains melanocytes involved in skin pigmentation; Langerhans cells, which are important for antigen presentation and immune responses; and Merkel cells, whose precise role in sensory reception has yet to be fully delineated. As keratinocytes undergo terminal differentiation, they begin to flatten out and assume the dimensions characteristic of the corneocytes (i.e., their diameter changes from 10–12 µm to 20–30 µm, and their volume increases by 10- to 20-fold). The viable epidermis does not contain a vascular network, and the keratinocytes obtain their nutrients from below by passive diffusion through the interstitial fluid.

The skin is a dynamic structure. Barrier function does not simply arise from the dying, degeneration, and compaction of the underlying epidermis. Rather, the processes of cornification and desquamation are intimately linked; synthesis of the stratum corneum occurs at the same rate as loss. Substantial evidence now confirms that the formation of the skin barrier is under homeostatic control, which is illustrated by the epidermal response to barrier perturbation by skin stripping or solvent extraction. Circumstantial evidence indicates that the rate of keratinocyte proliferation directly influences the integrity of the skin barrier. A general increase in the rate of proliferation results in a decrease in the time available for 1) uptake of nutrients (e.g., essential fatty acids), 2) protein and lipid synthesis, and 3) processing of the precursor molecules required for skin-barrier function. Whether chronic but quantitatively smaller increases in rate of epidermal proliferation also lead to changes in skin-barrier function remains unclear. Thus, the extent to which the decreased barrier function caused by irritants is caused by an increased epidermal proliferation also is unknown.The current understanding of the formation of the stratum corneum has come from studies of the epidermal responses to perturbation of the skin barrier. Experimental manipulations that disrupt the skin barrier include 1) extraction of skin lipids with apolar solvents, 2) physical stripping of the stratum corneum using adhesive tape, and 3) chemically induced irritation. All of these experimental manipulations lead to a decreased skin barrier as determined by transepidermal water loss (TEWL). The most studied experimental system is the treatment of mouse skin with acetone. This experiment results in a marked and immediate increase in TEWL, and therefore a decrease in skin-barrier function. Acetone treatment selectively removes glycerolipids and sterols from the skin, which indicates that these lipids are necessary, though perhaps not sufficient in themselves, for barrier function. Detergents act like acetone on the intercellular lipid domain.

The return to normal barrier function is biphasic: 50%–60% of barrier recovery typically occurs within 6 hours, but complete normalization of barrier function requires 5–6 days.


 6. Hand Hygiene Facts

6.1 Hand Washing for the general public from the CDC

 *The most important thing that you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands.By frequently washing your hands you wash away germs that you have picked up from other people, or from contaminated surfaces, or from animals and animal waste.*What happens if you do not wash your hands frequently?
You pick up germs from other sources and then you infect yourself when you

  • Touch your eyes
  • Or your nose
  • Or your mouth.

One of the most common ways people catch colds is by rubbing their nose or their eyes after their hands have been contaminated with the cold virus.You can also spread germs directly to others or onto surfaces that other people touch. And before you know it, everybody around you is getting sick.The important thing to remember is that, in addition to colds, some pretty serious diseases — like hepatitis A, meningitis, and infectious diarrhea — can easily be prevented if people make a habit of washing their hands.*When should you wash your hands?
You should wash your hands often. Probably more often than you do now because you can’t see germs with the naked eye or smell them, so you do not really know where they are hiding.It is especially important to wash your hands

  • Before, during, and after you prepare food
  • Before you eat, and after you use the bathroom
  • After handling animals or animal waste
  • When your hands are dirty, and
  • More frequently when someone in your home is sick.

*What is the correct way to wash your hands?

  • First wet your hands and apply liquid or clean bar soap. Place the bar soap on a rack and allow it to drain.
  • Next rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces.
  • Continue for 10 – 20 seconds or about the length of a little tune. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs.
  • Rinse well and dry your hands.

It is estimated that one out of three people do not wash their hands after using the restroom. So these tips are also important when you are out in public.


Hand Hygiene for Healthcare Professionals

  • Clean hands are the single most important factor in preventing the spread of pathogens and antibiotic resistance in healthcare settings.
  • Hand hygiene reduces the incidence of healthcare associated infections.
  • CDC estimates that each year nearly 2 million patients in the United States get an infection in hospitals, and about 90,000 of these patients die as a result of their infection.
  • More widespread use of hand hygiene products that improve adherence to recommended hand hygiene practices will promote patient safety and prevent infections.

2.2 CDC 2002 Hand Hygiene Guidelines Fact Sheet

  • Improved adherence to hand hygiene (i.e. hand washing or use of alcohol-based hand rubs) has been shown to terminate outbreaks in health care facilities, to reduce transmission of antimicrobial resistant organisms (e.g. methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) and reduce overall infection rates.
  • CDC is releasing guidelines to improve adherence to hand hygiene in health care settings. In addition to traditional handwashing with soap and water, CDC is recommending the use of alcohol-based handrubs by health care personnel for patient care because they address some of the obstacles that health care professionals face when taking care of patients.
  • Handwashing with soap and water remains a sensible strategy for hand hygiene in non-health care settings and is recommended by CDC and other experts.
  • When health care personnel’s hands are visibly soiled, they should wash with soap and water.
  • The use of gloves does not eliminate the need for hand hygiene. Likewise, the use of hand hygiene does not eliminate the need for gloves. Gloves reduce hand contamination by 70 percent to 80 percent, prevent cross-contamination and protect patients and health care personnel from infection. Handrubs should be used before and after each patient just as gloves should be changed before and after each patient.
  • When using an alcohol-based handrub, apply product to palm of one hand and rub hands together, covering all surfaces of hands and fingers, until hands are dry. Note that the volume needed to reduce the number of bacteria on hands varies by product.
  • Alcohol-based handrubs significantly reduce the number of microorganisms on skin, are fast acting and cause less skin irritation.
  • Health care personnel should avoid wearing artificial nails and keep natural nails less than one quarter of an inch long if they care for patients at high risk of acquiring infections (e.g. Patients in intensive care units or in transplant units
  • When evaluating hand hygiene products for potential use in health care facilities, administrators or product selection committees should consider the relative efficacy of antiseptic agents against various pathogens and the acceptability of hand hygiene products by personnel. Characteristics of a product that can affect acceptance and therefore usage include its smell, consistency, color and the effect of dryness on hands.
  • As part of these recommendations, CDC is asking health care facilities to develop and implement a system for measuring improvements in adherence to these hand hygiene recommendations. Some of the suggested performance indicators include: periodic monitoring of hand hygiene adherence and providing feedback to personnel regarding their performance, monitoring the volume of alcohol-based handrub used/1000 patient days, monitoring adherence to policies dealing with wearing artificial nails and focused assessment of the adequacy of health care personnel hand hygiene when outbreaks of infection occur.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis due to alcohol hand rubs is very uncommon. However, with increasing use of such products by health care personnel, it is likely that true allergic reactions to such products will occasionally be encountered.
  • Alcohol-based hand rubs take less time to use than traditional hand washing. In an eight-hour shift, an estimated one hour of an ICU nurse’s time will be saved by using an alcohol-based handrub.
  • These guidelines should not be construed to legalize product claims that are not allowed by an FDA product approval by FDA’s Over-the-Counter Drug Review. The recommendations are not intended to apply to consumer use of the products discussed.


7. Anticeptic Agents for Hand Hygiene

7.1 Plain (Non-Antimicrobial) Soap

Soaps are detergent-based products that contain esterified fatty acids and sodium or potassium hydroxide. They are available in various forms including bar soap, tissue, leaflet, and liquid preparations. Their cleaning activity can be attributed to their detergent properties, which result in removal of dirt, soil, and various organic substances from the hands. Plain soaps have minimal, if any, antimicrobial activity. However, handwashing with plain soap can remove loosely adherent transient flora. For example, handwashing with plain soap and water for 15 seconds reduces bacterial counts on the skin by 0.6–1.1 log10, whereas washing for 30 seconds reduces counts by 1.8–2.8 log10. However, in several studies, handwashing with plain soap failed to remove pathogens from the hands of hospital personnel. Handwashing with plain soap can result in paradoxical increases in bacterial counts on the skin. Non-antimicrobial soaps may be associated with considerable skin irritation and dryness, although adding emollients to soap preparations may reduce their propensity to cause irritation. Occasionally, plain soaps have become contaminated, which may lead to colonization of hands of personnel with gram-negative bacilli.


BEST PRACTICE TIPS:Efficacy of Hand Hygiene; Preparations in Killing Bacteria

  • Plain Soap – Good
  • Antimicrobial Soap – Better
  • Alcohol-based hand rub – Best

7.2 Alcohols

The majority of alcohol-based hand antiseptics contain either isopropanol, ethanol, n-propanol, or a combination of two of these products. Although n-propanol has been used in alcohol-based hand rubs in parts of Europe for many years, it is not listed in TFM as an approved active agent for HCW handwashes or surgical hand-scrub preparations in the United States. The majority of studies of alcohols have evaluated individual alcohols in varying concentrations. Other studies have focused on combinations of two alcohols or alcohol solutions containing limited amounts of hexachlorophene, quaternary ammonium compounds, povidone-iodine, triclosan, or chlorhexidine gluconate.The antimicrobial activity of alcohols can be attributed to their ability to denature proteins. Alcohol solutions containing 60%–95% alcohol are most effective, and higher concentrations are less potent because proteins are not denatured easily in the absence of water. The alcohol content of solutions may be expressed as percent by weight (w/w), which is not affected by temperature or other variables, or as percent by volume (vol/vol), which can be affected by temperature, specific gravity, and reaction concentration. For example, 70% alcohol by weight is equivalent to 76.8% by volume if prepared at 15ºC, or 80.5% if prepared at 25ºC. Alcohol concentrations in antiseptic hand rubs are often expressed as percent by volume.


  • Alcohols are flammable
  • Alcohol-based hand rubs should be stored away from high temperatures or flames
  • Europe: fire incidence low
  • U.S.: one report of flash fire
  • Application is key: Let It Dry!

Source: Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-care Settings. MMWR 2002; vol. 51, no. RR-16.7.3 Fingernails and Artificial NailsAlthough the relationship between fingernail length and wound infection is unknown, keeping nails short is considered key because the majority of flora on the hands are found under and around the fingernails. Fingernails should be short enough to allow DHCP to thoroughly clean underneath them and prevent glove tears. Sharp nail edges or broken nails are also likely to increase glove failure. Long artificial or natural nails can make donning gloves more difficult and can cause gloves to tear more readily. Hand carriage of gram-negative organisms has been determined to be greater among wearers of artificial nails than among nonwearers, both before and after handwashing. In addition, artificial fingernails or extenders have been epidemiologically implicated in multiple outbreaks involving fungal and bacterial infections in hospital intensive-care units and operating rooms. Freshly applied nail polish on natural nails does not increase the microbial load from periungual skin if fingernails are short; however, chipped nail polish can harbor added bacteria.7.4 JewelryStudies have demonstrated that skin underneath rings is more heavily colonized than comparable areas of skin on fingers without rings. In a study of intensive-care nurses, multivariable analysis determined rings were the only substantial risk factor for carriage of gram-negative bacilli and Staphylococcus aureus, and the concentration of organisms correlated with the number of rings worn. However, two other studies demonstrated that mean bacterial colony counts on hands after handwashing were similar among persons wearing rings and those not wearing rings. Whether wearing rings increases the likelihood of transmitting a pathogen is unknown; further studies are needed to establish whether rings result in higher transmission of pathogens in health-care settings. However, rings and decorative nail jewelry can make donning gloves more difficult and cause gloves to tear more readily. Thus, jewelry should not interfere with glove use (e.g., impair ability to wear the correct-sized glove or alter glove integrity).


Nails – Best Practice Tips:

  • Keep nails short (less than ¼ inch long) and be sure to clean under nails when doing hand hygiene
  • Artificial nails are more likely to harbor gram negative bacteria, even after hand washing.
  • Hands hygiene should always occur after removing gloves

7.5 Water Temperature

  • Overall, it is mainly for the hand washee’s comfort level that in temperate climes hot water is supplied, so that the water temperature will be at or just above body temperature, i.e. 37 C (98.6 F) up to about 45 C. (110 F).I would also suggest warmer water would have a greater potential to dissolve and suspend soil, sebum deposits on skin and soap from hand washing, as compared to colder water. In short, warm water has both functional and motivational reasons for use in hand washing.

8. Hand Washing Resources

Color Slides for Review

PowerPoint format (346KB / 27 slides) MS PowerPoint Required  (179KB / 27 pages) Slides only without notes

Supplemental Slides
PowerPoint format (1.1MB / 42 slides) MS PowerPoint Required  (460KB / 27 pages) Slides only without notes

Don’t Have Microsoft Powerpoint? Download free PowerPoint Viewer

CDC. Recommended infection-control practices for dentistry. MMWR 1986;35:237–42.

CDC. Recommended infection-control practices for dentistry, 1993. MMWR 1993;42(No. RR-8). University of Geneva Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland CDC, Atlanta, Georgia Bandolier journal, United Kingdom a poster

General Source: 

Hand Hygiene Library


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