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Clinical Systems Infection Control

Quick Response: What determines how I wash my hands and with what agent?


This question was submitted by a general dentist: What determines how I wash my hands and with hat agents?

Dr. Nita Mazurat, representing the Organization for Safety, Asepsis, and Prevention (OSAP) has provided this quick initial response

Soap Bottles



The answer to this question depends on the treatment being performing and whether or not you wish to have sustained antimicrobial action (substantivity) following hand washing. Hands are always washed just prior to gloving and immediately upon removal of gloves.

When performing critical procedures, such as surgery, the guidelines suggest the use of a surgical scrub using an antimicrobial soap. Consideration should also include the patient’s special needs. When a patient is immunocompromised, the use of an antimicrobial agent during hand washing may be prudent.

This question is reminiscent of a patient asking what toothpaste they should use. The brushing action of the brush is the active important part of tooth brushing. Similarly, the necessary components of hand hygiene are the vigorous hands action under a flowing stream of cool water, the vigorous action of rubbing the hands together when using alcohol hand rubs (when appropriate) and for a sufficient length of time.

Hand hygiene is performed to protect the patient and the operator from transient microorganisms that may have been transmitted when touching any contact surface, including a patient’s hands during greeting.


Do you need further information on this topic? Do you have any comments or suggestions? Email us at oasisdiscussions@cda-adc.ca

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