15- or 30-Second Handrub Time – Does It Matter?

By Chris Hermann

To prevent healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), it’s important for clinicians to sanitize their hands. Experts have traditionally focused beyond when and where providers clean their hands; they’ve also set standards for how healthcare workers perform hand hygiene and for how long. The recommended length of time is typically 30-60 seconds, but most providers spend far less time cleaning their hands. In fact, the range found in 14 previous studies was between 7 and 24 seconds[1].

Does it matter how long a healthcare worker spends applying an alcohol-based handrub, and the methods they use to do so?

A recent study in Germany compared wettability of hands during both 15-second and 30 second handrub times. While the wetted area was larger in subjects who spent 30 seconds using hand sanitizer when compared to those who spent 15 seconds, the difference was not statistically significant, so the authors of the research conclude that the time spent doesn’t really matter.

That said, technique does matter. The study’s participants were trained in the proper method of hand antisepsis partway through the research. Untrained subjects wetted almost 80% of their hand surface, while trained subjects wetted nearly 89% of their hands.

Focusing hand hygiene efforts on training healthcare workers (and re-training when necessary) in proper hand hygiene methods will likely be more effective than focusing on the length of time spent rubbing in sanitizer.

If you’d like to explore how our system typically doubles hand hygiene performance rates…and has reduced HAIs by between 45% and 81% in 100% of customers following our process for 6 months…here’s a brief video about how it works. Or here’s a white paper about The 4 Data Points You Need To Reduce HAIs.

Update April 2019: A second study has confirmed this finding: 15-Second Hand-Washing Shorter, as Effective as WHO-Recommended Protocol, Study Shows.

[1] Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12418624 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19508124

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