A preparation containing alcohol is designed for application to the hands to reduce the number of microorganisms on the hands. In the United States, such preparations usually contain 60% to 95% ethanol or isopropanol.
Guidelines developed by the CDC and infection control organizations recommend that healthcare workers use an alcohol-based hand rub (a gel, rinse, or foam) to routinely clean their hands between patient contacts, as long as hands are not visibly dirty. The phrase, foam in/foam out, is often used to remind associates to use hand foam when entering and leaving a patient's room. When using water-free hand hygiene, apply enough of the product to cover all surfaces of the hands and rub in until dry.
In certain situations, only soap and water are appropriate to adequately clean hands. The use of alcohol hand rub is NOT appropriate:
- After using the toilet
- Before eating
- When hands are visibly soiled
- After caring for patients with Clostridium difficile, norovirus, or diarrhea.