Hand Hygiene


Did you know that four out of five germs that cause illness are spread by hands?

That's right. And that's why cleaning hands is one of the most important steps health care providers - and all of us - can take to prevent the spread of infection-causing germs. Numerous studies show that infections can be prevented in the hospital if health care providers use proper hand hygiene. Keeping your hands clean is an important way to avoid getting sick or spreading germs to patients, coworkers, etc.

Please read the following tips and instructions on proper hand hygiene:

  • The Right Way To Wash Your Hands
  • When health care providers should wash their hands
  • When patients and visitors should wash their hands
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Additional Resources

The Right Way to Wash Your Hands

With soap and water:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
  • Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
  • Continue rubbing hands for 15 seconds.
  • Rinse hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.

If soap and clean water are not available and/or your hands are not visibly soiled, you can use an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast acting. (Remember: alcohol-based hand rubs not effective against spore-forming bacteria as C. Difficile.)

Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

  • Apply 1 pump of product to the palm of one hand.
  • Rub hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry.

Make sure your hands are completely dry prior to putting on gloves.
Wash your hands with soap and water when you feel a “build-up” of emollients on your hands.

When health care providers should wash their hands

Health care providers are expected to clean their hands with waterless hand sanitizer or soap and water:

  • Upon entering and exiting the room of hospitalized patients
  • Before touching each patient, whether or not gloves are worn
  • After touching each patient
  • After glove removal
  • Between activities on the same patient, for example, after a dressing change and before urinary or catheter care
  • After touching items soiled with blood or body fluid, such as wound dressings or bedpans
  • Before handling medications
  • Before preparing food
  • After personal activities, such as, use of the toilet, coughing or sneezing 

When patients and visitors should wash their hands

  • Before eating. Use waterless hand sanitizer if in your car
  • Before, during and after handling or preparing food
  • After changing a diaper
  • After you use the bathroom
  • After handling animals, their toys, leashes or waste
  • After touching something that could be contaminated (such as a trash can, cleaning cloth, drain, or soil)
  • After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose
  • Before dressing a wound, giving medicine or inserting contact lenses
  • More often when someone in your home is sick
  • Whenever they look or feel dirty.
  • Whenever you visit someone in the hospital or nursing home.

Remember, too, the importance of hand hygiene if you are providing care for a loved one at home or in the hospital. Clean your hands before and after every contact.