According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Hand hygiene is the first line of defense for the prevention of illnesses and spread of infection to others.” We should all know this. We should all be taught at home, in school, and at work how important this seemingly simple activity is. We need to have confidence and trust that individuals working in hospitals, restaurants, nursing homes, etc.—in short anywhere where germs and disease are particularly dangerous and communicable—know how vital hand hygiene is and practice it consistently. But the reality is, achieving desirable levels of compliance doesn’t always occur.
Increased compliance might be achieved if the hand wash/sanitizer is aesthetically pleasing insofar as the product feels or smells good, does not irritate the skin, and is easy to rinse off. Packaging and ease of use also affect compliance, which is related to the dispensers’ placement and functioning (manual vs. hands-free) in the work area. Other variables that impact compliance (or lack of it) include culture and workplace expectations, training and education, cost per use and safety-related factors. Of course, liability for non-compliance (hospitals, restaurants, etc.) makes the issue even more important when it impacts the pocket book.
Hand hygiene: true or false?
1. Alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol) is a good active ingredient for a hand sanitizer.
True and False. Alcohol is established as a good antimicrobial, but alcohol in a hand sanitizer has its disadvantages. Alcohol hand sanitizers:
- Dry the skin.
- Are 60-95% alcohol, and are dangerous if used inappropriately
- In correctional facilities because of potential abuse
- At home, as children have accidentally consumed them because of their appealing colors, fragrances and taste, leading to emergency room visits for alcohol poisoning
- In numerous settings because of the flammability of the products
2. Triclosan is a suitable antimicrobial to use in antiseptic washes.
False. The FDA has ruled that the risk of using triclosan as the active ingredient in consumer antimicrobial hand washes outweighs any benefits. Other active ingredients are equally effective. Why risk it?
3. Hand sanitizers are a good replacement for hand washing.
False. Soap and water are still the preferred method for cleaning hands.
4. 15 seconds is long enough to wash your hands.
False. Washing hands for AT LEAST 15 seconds is recommended.
Solutions at hand
It bears repeating: Hand hygiene is the first line of defense for the prevention of illnesses and spread of infection to others. Spartan Chemical Hand Hygiene products are Triclosan-free. (Please see SDS documents for the entire product line here.) The company’s hand washing and sanitizing products are also alcohol-free. Packaging in gallon containers for the Lite’n Foamy® line reduces the cost per wash.. Spartan’s Foaming Hand Wash, Antibacterial Hand Wash, and Antibacterial Hand Sanitizers come in a variety of scents and antimicrobial “levels” for different end-users environments. Finally, the company’s Industrial Hand Cleaners are offered in both Lite’n Foamy® and waterless versions.
Through Spartan Chemical, proper hand hygiene can be encouraged by using their professionally designed visual aid reminders for various work/education/living situations and are tri-lingual (English, Spanish and French.) The company’s CleanCheck® training program helps employees learn proper techniques and habits in sanitation-critical locations.
And finally, hand hygiene is so important that the CDC has declared May 5 as World Hand Hygiene Day. Simply put, hand hygiene saves lives!
Ronald A. Barnhart is a chemist at Spartan Chemical. He is a Personal Care and Antimicrobial Formulation Scientist, with 25 years’ experience.