Hand hygiene involves cleaning hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub to prevent transmission of germs to others.
Clean hands are the most important factor in preventing the spread of disease and antibiotic resistance in settings across the continuum of health care.
Hand hygiene is a general term that refers to a method of removing microorganisms from the hands so the germs cannot be transmitted to anyone else. The two most common types of hand hygiene are hand washing with soap and water and using an alcohol-based hand rub. Perform hand hygiene before and after patient/resident contact; after contact with objects or surfaces in the patient/resident’s immediate vicinity; and after removing gloves (if worn).
- Soap and water should be used when hands are visibly dirty, contaminated, or soiled, after using the restroom, and before eating or preparing food. Washing hands with soap and water is also recommended to prevent the spread of certain organisms (such as Clostridium difficile).
- Alcohol-based hand rubs are products that kill germs on the hands. They are fast-acting, convenient, and generally can be used for all situations other than the ones described above. Be sure to use hand rubs that contain 60-95% ethanol or isopropanol (types of alcohol).
Hand hygiene is part of standard precautions because it is a prevention measure that should be applied to all patients in all settings, all the time.
Patients can take action by asking both their healthcare providers and visitors to practice appropriate hand hygiene.
- Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings (CDC website) – contains information on hand hygiene basics, guidelines, training, measurement, and promotional campaigns
- Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives (CDC website) – more hand hygiene resources for the general public, including in non-healthcare settings
- Save Lives: Clean Your Hands (WHO website) – WHO’s global annual campaign on hand hygiene, containing tools and resources for training and education, system change, and evaluation and feedback
Fact Sheets and Brochures
- Hand Hygiene (VDH fact sheet)
- Hand Hygiene (CDC fact sheets)
- Hand Hygiene: Why, How & When? (WHO brochure) – includes the “5 Moments for Hand Hygiene” and descriptions on “How to Handrub” and “How to Handwash”
- How to Wash Hands (poster)
- Guidelines for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings: Recommendations of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) and the HICPAC/SHEA/APIC/IDSA Hand Hygiene Task Force, 2002
- WHO (World Health Organization) Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Healthcare, 2009
In-services and Presentations
- Patient admission video – video for hospital patients and visitors that teaches the importance of practicing hand hygiene while in the hospital and that it is appropriate to ask or remind healthcare providers to practice hand hygiene as well; available in English and Spanish
- Hand Hygiene In-Service for Staff of Assisted Living Facilities or Nursing Homes
- Hand Hygiene In-Service for Staff of Other Types of Healthcare Facilities
- Hand Hygiene and Personal Protective Equipment Monitoring Tool by Precaution Type – for assisted living facilities and nursing homes; can be edited to apply to other settings
Other Tools and Toolkits
- Hand hygiene interactive training course
- Measuring Hand Hygiene Adherence: Overcoming the Challenges – document from The Joint Commission to help healthcare organizations target their efforts in measuring hand hygiene performance
- Hand Hygiene Toolkit for Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASC Quality Collaboration)