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Healthier washrooms are in your hands

13 November 2018

Kimberly-Clark Professional offers advice on how to improve washroom facilities within hospital and healthcare environments in order to meet the high hygiene standards required

Washroom facilities play a critical role in maintaining hygiene standards and driving a positive perception of a hospital. A dirty or badly-maintained washroom is a nuisance and a potential health hazard, but it’s even more than that. It also reflects badly on the overall standards of hygiene across the site and portrays a negative image of how the healthcare facility is managed and the care provided to patients. If the site cannot even keep its washrooms clean, what might be lurking in the corners of its wards or treatment rooms? Can it be trusted to provide safe, hygienic healthcare to the most vulnerable in society? 

Good hand hygiene is essential throughout healthcare premises to prevent the spread of Hospital Acquired Infections and this can start in the washroom. The government acknowledged the importance of hand hygiene when it announced its plans to require hospitals to publish hand hygiene indicators for the first time as part of its aim to halve the number of gram-negative bloodstream infections (eg E-coli) by 2020/21. Hospital employees may need to wash their hands several times every hour to comply with World Health Organisation (WHO) hand hygiene guidelines for healthcare workers. 

Taking stock

Patients with compromised immune systems need a washroom that is safe. A shared washroom has the potential to spread infection so it is vital this risk is minimised. Patients may also have reduced mobility, so avoid specifying equipment, such as dispensers, that are too large for the space and difficult to manoeuvre around.

Ensuring the washroom is well-stocked with good quality hand towels, soap, toilet paper, sanitiser and moisturiser, is important. Offering well-known, branded products encourages usage. Don’t be tempted to think the addition of hand moisturiser is a luxury in cash-strapped healthcare environments. It isn’t. It can be an essential part of ensuring good hand hygiene. Skin irritation is the number one reason for the failure of hand hygiene compliance in hospitals1. In Britain, one in five nurses have reported work-related skin problems as a result of repeated hand washing2. Therefore any steps taken to help staff to care for their skin may also encourage hand hygiene compliance.

Drying hands

Drying hands is an essential part of the hand washing routine. Some microbes remain on hands after washing and can be easily transferred if hands are not properly dried3. The WHO unequivocally recommends drying hands thoroughly with a single use towel. Two separate pieces of recent scientific research have both recommended that healthcare facilities should use paper towels for drying hands. The University of Brighton research found that bacteria on the hands “significantly increased” after using warm air dryers4. The international study supervised by Mark Wilcox, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Leeds found that jet-air dryers actually spread bacteria around the washroom. In two hospitals used in the study (Paris and Leeds), at least five times more bacteria were recovered from the floors when jet-air dryers were in use compared with paper towels5.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a hand sanitiser is a replacement for hand washing. WHO is clear that good hand hygiene is the biggest weapon against bacteria in hospitals and washing hands as recommended is the best way to stop the spread of bacteria.

Rolled paper hand towels, such as Scott Rolled Hand Towels deliver more sheets per roll, combined with an effective one-sheet dispensing system, which can reduce refills and help free up domestic teams to carry out other important cleaning tasks. 

Nowhere to hide

Minimising the risk of cross-contamination is also important. Cleaners need a facility that is easy to keep clean and with no dirt traps where bacteria can hide. Stocking a good quality paper hand towel may reduce the number of towels used. Using less product means more time between refills, so reducing the instances of contact with cleaners and therefore removing an opportunity for cross-contamination. One-wipe clean dispensers with no dirt traps, such as The Scott Rolled Hand Towel System, are ideal for the healthcare environment. 


1 Pessoa-Silva CL, Posfay Barbe K, Pfister R, Touveneau S, PernegerTV, Pittet D. Attitudes and perceptions toward hand hygiene among healthcare workers caring for critically ill neonates. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. Mar 2005; 26(3): 305-311)

2 Dermatitis inspection report 2008/09 Prevention and management of work-related contact dermatitis in the NHS acute sector

3 Patrick, D.R., Findon, G & Miller, T.E. (1997). Residual moisture determines the level of touch-contact associated bacterial transfer following hand washing. Epidemiology & Infection, 119. (3). 319-325.)

4  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1757177418789485

5 ‘Multicentre study to examine the extent of environmental contamination by potential bacterial pathogens, including antibiotic resistant bacteria, in hospital washrooms according to hand-drying method’ published in the Journal of Hospital Infection on 7 September (DOI 10.1016/j.jhin.2018.07.002).