What is Hand Hygiene?

Hand hygiene, or hand washing, refers to the process of washing hands with water and soap or hand sanitizers to get rid of dirt, soil, microorganisms, and other impurities. Dirty hands are the primary mode of transmission of numerous infectious diseases, so it is vital to practice good hand hygiene to prevent the spread of such illnesses. Hand washing can even prevent the spread of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

What are the indications for Hand Hygiene?

It is essential to wash your hands in the following scenarios:

  • Visibly soiled hands.
  • After returning home from outside.
  • Before and after eating or preparing food.
  • When inserting or removing contact lenses.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose.
  • After throwing garbage.

What are the Different Hand Hygiene Methods?

  1. Routine and Antiseptic Handwashing: In this method, ordinary soap or antimicrobial substances such as chlorhexidine, iodine, chloroxylenol, iodophors and triclosan are used.
  2. Antiseptic Handrub: These are alcohol-based hand washes that can be used without water.
  3. Surgery Antisepsis: In this method, antimicrobial agents such as chlorhexidine or water and non-antimicrobial agents followed by an alcohol-based hand scrub are used.


What are the Hand Washing Steps?

The entire process should take 40 to 60 seconds. The hand washing steps are like this:

  • Wet your hands with water.
  • Use enough soap to cover all the surfaces of your hand.
  • Rub your palms.
  • Place your right palm over the dorsum of your left palm with the fingers interlaced and rub them. Do the same with the left palm over the dorsum of your right palm.
  • Rub your palms together with the fingers interlaced.
  • Rub the back of your fingers to the opposite palm as you keep your fingers interlaced.
  • Clasp the opposite thumb with the other hand and rub in a rotational direction.
  • Rinse your hands under water.
  • Dry your hands with a towel.
  • Use the towel to turn off the tap.


How to Use an Antiseptic Handrub?

It takes between 20 to 30 seconds to wash your hands with an antiseptic hand rub. Here are the seven steps of hand washing:

  • Take a palmful of the product while keeping your hands cupped, then apply the product evenly to cover all the surfaces.
  • Rub your palms.
  • Place your right palm over the dorsum of your left palm with your fingers interlaced and rub them. Do the same with the left palm over the dorsum of the right palm.
  • Rub your palms together with your fingers interlaced.
  • Rub the back of your fingers to the opposite palm while keeping your fingers interlaced.
  • Clasp the opposite thumb with the other hand and rub in a rotational direction.
  • Wait till your hands are dry.

Hand Hygiene in healthcare settings

  • Before and after touching a patient.
  • Before and after an operation.
  • After touching the patient’s surroundings.
  • After exposure to body fluids.


Surgical Hand Washing Time and Procedure

Cleaning and scrubbing the hands and forearm before surgery is known as surgical hand scrubbing. It reduces the chance of wound infections during surgery. This takes between 2 to 6 minutes.

The steps involved are:

  • Take off watches, rings, bracelets, or bangles.
  • Debris from under the fingernail must be cleaned using a nail cleaner under running water.
  • The hands and forearm are then wet under running water.
  • Then the hands and forearm are scrubbed using an antimicrobial agent and scrubber.
  • Dry your hands with a sterile towel.
  • After this, sterile gowns and gloves are worn.

It is advised to wash your hands often with soap and water. You need to rub your hands with the foam for atleast 20 seconds. Encourage your children to wash their hands regularly and properly. You can tell them to scrub and wash their hands until they sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to keep them entertained. In situations when you can’t find a sink or running water, keep alcohol-based sanitizers handy. Hand sanitizers won’t help if your hands are visibly dirty, but they can be used as a temporary solution. Regularly washing your hands will help you stay safe from infectious diseases, so wash your hands and stay healthy!


Frequently asked questions (FAQs)


Why is hand washing very Important?

There are millions of germs lurking in our environment. It can reach us through our hands, eyes, nose and mouth. It is our duty to remain hygienic. If we do not wash our hands after coughing, sneezing and using restrooms, we will be extremely susceptible to infection.


What are the types of hand washing?

There are three different types of hand washing. The first is routine hand washing using soap and water. The second is antiseptic hand washing, which is used to create an aseptic (free of germs and bacteria) environment. Thirdly, surgical hand washing, which is done by surgeons in hospitals before any surgery.


How does hand washing work?

Germs lodge in the form of grease, dirt and natural oils on hands. Water is not enough to remove them, but soap helps to break down the germ-carrying oils. Soap also facilitates friction and rubbing, which helps eliminate germs from the hands and so that germs can be rinsed away with water. Soap also contributes to a more effective wash. Soap is an excellent surfactant. It can combine with water and oil. This property makes them an effective cleanser.


Is washing your hands a good practice?

It is advised to wash your hands regularly. It is wise to clean your hands before and after eating and after using the restroom. But washing your hands too often is a sign of psychological disturbance.


How often do we need to wash our hands throughout the day?

Make a habit of washing your hands at least twice a day. When you return home from work, make sure to clean your hands so that you don’t infect people at home. Having food after washing your hands will protect you from contamination of food. If you have pets at home, it’s best to wash your hands after playing with them. Washrooms are the source of many infections. It is advised to wash your hands after using them.


How long should you wash your hands every time?

It is beneficial to clean your hands for about 20-25 seconds every time. There is a standardized six-step procedure for hand washing techniques. It is recommended to follow it for more effective outcomes.


Can too much hand-washing make you sick?

Yes, it can sometimes make you obsessively think about too much cleanliness. It can lead to a disorder called OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).


When should children wash their hands?

Atleast in the early stages, until they learn to wash themselves, it is recommended for parents to be near the kids when they wash their hands. They must wash their hands whenever visible dirt is present in the child’s hand, maybe after playing on the ground or with pets.