Home >Hand sanitiser rubbed in for 15 seconds effective at reducing bacteria

Hand sanitiser rubbed in for 15 seconds effective at reducing bacteria

10 May 2019

A 15-second application time and three-step technique for use of alcohol-based hand rub is as effective in reducing bacteria as the 30-second application and six-step technique recommended by WHO, and could improve hand hygiene compliance.

That's according to new research carried out by University Hospital Basel and led by Dr Sarah Tschudin-Sutter, of the department of infectiology and hospital hygiene.

WHO recommends a six-step 'how to hand rub' technique for using alcohol-based hand rub. However adherence to all six steps is low and previous research indicates that a simplified three-step hand rub technique is superior to the six-step technique in terms of compliance and killing bacteria.

The current recommended application time for hand rubs is 30 seconds. But recent research suggests that 15 seconds of hand rubbing could be just as effective in reducing bacterial counts.

In this randomised crossover trial, the scientists investigated combining the simpler three-step technique with a shorter application time of 15 seconds.

Twenty volunteers (aged 18-to-51) applied hand sanitiser via four different techniques.  

The first group followed the WHO’s six-step regimen for 30 seconds, while the second group completed the same six steps process but for just 15 seconds. The third group followed a three-step process for 30 seconds and the fourth the same shortened process but for 15 seconds. 

After each application, the researchers analysed the number of bacteria on the participants’ hands. 

Results revealed the 15 second rubs were as effective at reducing bacterial counts as the 30-second process, irrespective of the hand hygiene technique.

Although 15 seconds may sound like a lot to the average person, the researchers hope their study will be good news for healthcare workers.

“The time pressure and heavy workload experienced by healthcare workers reduces compliance with hand hygiene standards,” Dr Tschudin-Sutter said. 

“Our findings suggest shortening hand rubbing time and simplifying the technique for use of hand rub could be a safe alternative that is easier to fit into their busy routine, could enhance the overall quality of hand hygiene performance, and have a positive effect on adherence.”

The researchers stress, however, the study was carried out in a laboratory and therefore different results may occur in a clinical setting. 

They also only looked at how hand sanitisers reduce bacteria and not other pathogens, such as viruses.