Shropshire Council

Advice on hand hygiene

Good hand hygiene is the most important method of preventing cross-infection.

Hand washing removes or destroys any germs picked up by the hands, and also reduces the numbers that normally live on the skin. The purpose of hand washing is to afford protection to you, and also to prevent transfer of germs to other people. Good technique is more important than the type of cleanser used.

Hand gels are not to be used as a substitute for hand washing.

When you should wash your hands

  • before eating, handling, preparing or serving foods
  • after contact with all body substances (eg dealing with incontinence)
  • after using or cleaning the toilet
  • after handling or cleaning up after any pets (or other animals)
  • after blowing/wiping the nose or covering a sneeze or cough
  • before preparing and giving medications/treatments
  • when hands look or feel dirty

How you should wash your hands

  • remove excessive jewellery to allow for effective hand washing
  • always wet the hands before applying cleanser
  • apply sufficient cleanser to produce a good lather
  • rub cleanser evenly over all areas of the hands
  • rinse off every trace of lather under running water, or with clean, warm water in a bowl or basin
  • dry hands and wrists with a clean paper towel. This helps prevent dry, chapped skin that can harbour bacteria, and damp hands, which can encourage bacteria to grow.
  • avoid hand contamination from bin when disposing of towel

Liquid soap from a pump dispenser is preferable to bar soap. If bar soap is used, it should be kept dry and changed regularly. Soap dishes that retain fluid shouldn't be used. Expensive skin cleansers are not necessary.

The regular use of handcreams in tubes (not tubs) will help prevent hands from becoming chapped and sore - particularly in winter. Any cuts or abrasions on the hands should be covered with a waterproof dressing.