Journal of Hygiene

Research Article

Effectiveness of hand washing and disinfection methods in removing transient bacteria after patient nursing

Juhani Ojajärvia1

a1 Department of Public Health Science, University of Helsinki, Haarlmaninkatu 3. 00290 Helsinki 29, Finland


The effectiveness of various hand washing and disinfection methods in removing transient skin bacteria was studied in hospital after dry or moist contamination of the hands when nursing burn patients. The results were compared with those of laboratory tests with volunteers. A fairly good correlation of the bacterial reductions existed between hospital and laboratory tests. All other methods removed Slaph. aureus from the hands more effectively than liquid soap. Gram-negative bacilli were more easily removed than staphylococci, even with soap wash alone.

In hospital, none of the washing and disinfection methods always removed all patient-borne bacteria from the hands. After dry or moist contamination and subsequent washing with soap only, colonies of Staph. aureus were often detected in finger-print samples. Staphylococci wero more often completely removed by a 4% chlorhexidine detergent scrub and alcoholic solutions (either with or without previous soap wash) than by liquid soap, hexachlorophene or iodophor preparations. Gram-negative bacilli were more easily removed by all the washing and disinfection methods. After moist contamination, Gram-negative bacilli were more often completely removed from the hands by ethanol than by other treatments.

The results of the present study emphasize the importance of always using gloves when nursing a profuse spreader of bacteria or one who must be protected from infection.

(Received September 24 1979)