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Influence of rub-in technique on required application time and hand coverage in hygienic hand disinfection

Günter Kampf12*, Mirja Reichel13, Yvonne Feil4, Sven Eggerstedt4 and Paul-Michael Kaulfers5

Author Affiliations

1 BODE Chemie GmbH & Co. KG, Scientific Affairs, Melanchthonstr. 27, 22525 Hamburg, Germany

2 Institut für Hygiene und Umweltmedizin, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald, Walther-Rathenau-Str. 49a, 17475 Greifswald, Germany

3 Institut für Pharmazie, Universität Hamburg, Bundesstr. 45, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

4 BODE Chemie GmbH & Co. KG, Development, Melanchthonstr. 27, 22525 Hamburg, Germany

5 Institut für Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Virologie und Hygiene, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg, Gebäude O26, Martinistr. 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2008, 8:149  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-8-149

Published: 29 October 2008



Recent data indicate that full efficacy of a hand rub preparation for hygienic hand disinfection can be achieved within 15 seconds (s). However, the efficacy test used for the European Norm (EN) 1500 samples only the fingertips. Therefore, we investigated hand coverage using sixteen different application variations. The hand rub was supplemented with a fluorescent dye, and hands were assessed under UV light by a blind test, before and after application. Fifteen non-healthcare workers were used as subjects for each application variation apart from one test which was done with a group of twenty healthcare workers. All tests apart from the reference procedure were performed using 3 mL of hand rub. The EN 1500 reference procedure, which consists of 6 specific rub-in steps performed twice with an aliquot of 3 ml each time, served as a control. In one part of this study, each of the six steps was performed from one to five times before proceeding to the next step. In another part of the study, the entire sequence of six steps was performed from one to five times. Finally, all subjects were instructed to cover both hands completely, irrespective of any specific steps ("responsible application"). Each rub-in technique was evaluated for untreated skin areas.


The reference procedure lasted on average 75 s and resulted in 53% of subjects with at least one untreated area on the hands. Five repetitions of the rub-in steps lasted on average 37 s with 67% of subjects having incompletely treated hands. One repetition lasted on average 17 s, and all subjects had at least one untreated area. Repeating the sequence of steps lasted longer, but did not yield a better result. "Responsible application" was quite fast, lasting 25 s among non-healthcare worker subjects and 28 s among healthcare workers. It was also effective, with 53% and 55% of hands being incompletely treated. New techniques were as fast and effective as "responsible application". Large untreated areas were found only with short applications. Fingertips and palms were often covered completely.


In clinical practice, hand disinfection is apparently better than practitioners of infection control often anticipate. Based on our data, a high-quality hygienic hand disinfection is not possible within 15 s. A 30 s application time can, however, be recommended for clinical practice. The currently recommended six steps of EN 1500 are not really suitable for clinical practice, because they yield comparably poor results. The most appropriate application procedure may be "responsible application", or one of the other new techniques.