Hand Hygiene

Did you know that according to a survey carried out by Initial Washroom Hygiene, who spoke to 100,000 people across Europe, only 38% of men wash their hands after going to the toilet? Women faired better at around 60%.

Hand washing is the first line of defence against disease and illness.  A simple process that few of us really give much thought to.  Perhaps its because we don’t understand the importance of why this should be part of our daily routines, not once or twice a day, but all day.

Germs are everywhere! They stick to our hands and the items we touch as we go about our usual daily routines.

Just think, there are an estimated 1,500 bacteria per square centimetre of skin on your hand. You can’t see them but they are there and some of them can cause a great deal of harm.

Think about what you do with your hands in a day.  We touch our own eyes, nose, mouth, shake hands, touch objects, keyboards, telephones and kitchen equipment.  Not to mention whilst out and about on local transport or in our own car or visiting friends, family and public places.

80 percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted by touch meaning they can be easily be prevented by implementing proper hand washing techniques. A simple, low cost action, in preventing the spread of germs.

Studies have show that washing your hands can prevent around 1 in 3 diarrhoea-related illnesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections such as colds or flu.

Cleaning your hands at key times with soap and water or hand sanitiser is something we can all do and one of the best ways to help the spread of germs.

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing a nappy or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After touching rubbish
  • When your hands are visibly dirty

Many of us know this but how many of us are effectively washing our hands?

Studies have shown that people still don’t wash their hands in the right way. In fact, washing alone is not enough to prevent the spread of bacteria and other germs. After washing, you must also dry your hands thoroughly with a clean towel or air dryer, rather than on the back on your jeans lets say.

The best option for removing dirt and germs from your hands is soap and water. When these are not available then hand sanitizer is a good back up option.  Hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol for it to be effective and you should always wash with soap and water as soon as you can afterwards.  Hand sanitizer does not kill all types of germs such as a stomach bug called norovirus, some parasites, and Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea but it is a great second line of defence.

So how should we be washing our hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean running water, hot or cold, and apply soap.
  • Build up a lather by running your hands together with the soap
  • Rub all surfaces of your hands including the palms, backs, fingers, between your fingers and under your nails. Keep this up for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse under clean running water
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

With hand sanitiser:

  • Cover all surfaces on your hands with the product.
  • Rub your hands together until they feel dry; this should be around 20 seconds.
  • Do not rinse or wipe off.

You might think that in a laundry environment hand washing is not so crucial but think again.

For laundries that deal with healthcare and work wear, staff hand washing will help eliminate the risk of bacteria being transferred through handling of the linen or work garments, i.e. uniforms, coats, overalls etc.

For hospitality laundry items, clean hands mean no marks on the linen – tablecloths, bed sheets and napkins stay pristine.

For those involved in engineering in a laundry, there is a general need to regularly wash hands as the work itself creates oily, dirty hands a good deal of the day.  And finally, but not least, there is every day washroom hygiene, for the health of all the staff.  Common sense in washing hands to help maintain a hygienic environment to work in.

So wherever you work, or live or visit or however you travel around and whomever you meet, think hand hygiene.  Any maybe between us, we can do our bit to reducing the number of colds, coughs and stomach bugs and make life that bit brighter for everyone.


“Why Wash Your Hands?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated November 08, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html.

“When & How to Wash Your Hands” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated September 4, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html.