Hand hygiene is a very effective way to control the spread of infection. Hand hygiene is a general term that refers to washing hands with soap and water, or using an hand sanitiser (Based on material provided by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council).

Hands can play an important role in the spread of infection (Figure 1.2). The best way to prevent the transmission of disease is through effective hand hygiene. This can be done with soap and water, which removes both dirt and germs from the hands, or by using an hand sanitiser, which reduces the number of germs on the hand (Based on material provided by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council).

Figure 1.2

Soap and water

The most effective method of hand hygiene is using soap and water. Washing your hands with soap and running water loosens, dilutes and flushes off dirt and germs. Soap alone can not remove dirt or kill germs.  It is the combination of running water, rubbing your hands and the detergent in the soap that helps loosen the dirt, remove the germs and rinse them off your skin (Based on material provided by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council).

Hand drying

Effective hand drying is just as important as hand washing. Damp hands pick up and transfer up to 1000 times more bacteria than dry hands. Drying your hands thoroughly also helps remove any germs that may not have been rinsed off (Based on material provided by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council).

Using disposable paper towels to dry hands is the preferred option in centres. Cloth towels, if used, should be used by one person (not shared) and hung up to dry between uses. Cloth towels should be laundered regularly to reduce the risk of recontaminating or cross-contaminating hands (Based on material provided by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council).

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Last updated 12 July 2017.