We have collected resources from across the Joint Commission, CDC, FDA and more to provide a one-stop-shop for sanitization and handwashing information. Learn more about hand hygiene using our FAQ below.
Soap and water, worked into a lather, trap and remove germs and chemicals from hands. Wetting your hands with clean water before applying soap helps you get a better lather than applying soap to dry hands. A good lather forms pockets called micelles that trap and remove germs, harmful chemicals, and dirt from your hands.
Lathering with soap and scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds is important to this process because these actions physically destroy germs and remove germs and chemicals from your skin. When you rinse your hands, you wash the germs and chemicals down the drain.
Studies show that you need to scrub for 20 seconds to remove harmful germs and chemicals from your hands. If you wash for a shorter time, you will not remove as many germs. Make sure to scrub all areas of your hands, including your palms, backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails. Johns Hopkins Medicine has provided a video, Hand-washing Steps Using the WHO Technique, to see the correct technique in action.
These are CDC’s key times you should wash your hands:
Hand hygiene helps stop the spread of germs, including ones that can cause antibiotic-resistant infections. Antibiotic resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. Keeping your hands clean by washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer is one of the best ways to prevent germs from spreading and avoid infections.
Hand sanitizers labeled as containing the term “alcohol,” used by itself, are expected to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol). Only two alcohols are permitted as active ingredients in alcohol-based hand sanitizers – ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol or 2-propanol). However, the term “alcohol,” used by itself, on hand sanitizer labels specifically refers to ethanol only. Methanol and 1-propanol are not acceptable ingredients in hand sanitizer and can be toxic to humans. Visit Is Your Hand Sanitizer on FDA’s List of Products You Should Not Use? for more information.
CDC recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers as the standard method for hand hygiene. For more information, visit Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings.
For all healthcare programs to be fully compliant with NPSG.07.01.01 and standard precautions, organizations must implement a hand hygiene program that follows categories IA, IB, and IC of either the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/ or the current World Health Organization (WHO) hand hygiene guidelines, set goals for improving compliance with hand hygiene guidelines and improve compliance with hand hygiene guidelines based on established goals.
Remind employees to wash their hands often with soap and water and provide accessible sinks, soap, water, and a way to dry their hands (e.g., paper towels, hand dryer). Give out buttons, and put visual reminders like printouts, signs or posters, in bathrooms or kitchen areas to remind employees to wash their hands. Provide other hygiene supplies such as tissues, no-touch/foot pedal trash cans, and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to keep your employees healthy.
No. CDC is not a regulatory agency, and therefore does not enforce compliance with handwashing recommendations. CDC has developed guidance on when and how to properly wash hands in community settings and when and how to clean hands in healthcare settings. Your state or local health department may have handwashing requirements included in their health codes.