Hand hygiene - handy in the right place

25th of January 2023
Hand hygiene - handy in the right place
Hand hygiene - handy in the right place

Mild soaps, hand sanitisers, industrial hand cleansers, luxurious lotions – all of these products help to keep our hands clean, healthy and germ-free. But the choice of hand hygiene product will heavily depend on the environment in question. How do manufacturers meet such a wide range of hand hygiene needs, asks ECJ?

Hand hygiene should be a simple process. Soap; lather, wash, rinse, then dry – what could be easier? Yet the products we use can vary significantly depending on the level of dirt that needs to be removed from the hands, how often this needs to be done and how crucial it is that the hands remain scrupulously clean and germ-free.

Most routine hand washes are designed to remove light dirt or transient bacteria from the hands, and the majority of soaps are up to this task. But more robust products would potentially be needed in an industrial setting for washing off substances such as paint, solvent or grease. And in a hospital there will be a need for extra care when cleaning away substances such as bodily fluids.

So, how far do professional hand hygiene products vary from sector to sector, and how do manufacturers meet the needs of the various different environments?

Any hand hygiene product needs to be effective and be able to promote good skin health according to GOJO’s managing director UK and Ireland Chris Wakefield. “It should also offer a positive experience for the user, regardless of the industry,” he said.

“However, hand hygiene products must also be suitable for the environment in which it is used. For example, a specialist scrubbing agent would not be required in a healthcare facility because the soils here would be much lighter than those in, say, a factory or workshop.”

Optimum hygiene is of paramount importance in hospitals, he says. “Many people will be visiting vulnerable patients and potentially touching and contaminating surfaces, which means good hand hygiene is vital,” he said. “All soaps and sanitisers in these settings should meet key hospital norms to provide assurance they are effective against germs and are safe for use in healthcare locations.”

Any hand hygiene formulation used in a hospital also needs to be gentle on skin, he adds. “Skin health is a primary concern for healthcare workers who will need to wash or sanitise their hands repeatedly during a shift.”

All products used in healthcare must be effective against germs and clinically proven to maintain skin health, according to Wakefield. “Acceptability is also crucial because if staff members like the products, they will be more likely to use them consistently,” he adds. “And this in turn will help to prevent infections from spreading whereas if they have a poor experience, the opposite may be the case.”

Operatives In a factory or workshop need to have access to specialist hand cleaners that are strong enough to defeat heavy dirt and grime while also being kind to the skin, he says.
“The choice of formulation here is incredibly important, particularly for people whose career involves working with their hands,” said Wakefield.

“The wrong product combined with exposure to solvents and substances such as abrasive cleaners, wet cement, paints, adhesives or other materials commonly used in construction could lead to dermatitis.”

Reliability and durability

The dispenser will help to drive the choice of hand hygiene product in an upmarket facility, he says. “This is both for aesthetic reasons and in terms of functionality,” says Wakefield. “Sloppy, leaky pumps or dispensers that have been allowed to run empty will not evoke a feeling of luxury.

“Reliability and durability will be key requirements here, and touch-free dispensers will make a particularly good choice because they are modern and intuitive to use.”

Claimed to be particularly suitable for use in healthcare is GOJO’s new gentle Mild Lotion Wash which has a three-in-one formula and can be used on the hair and body as well as the hands. The company also offers a range of mild, foaming, fragranced and fragrance-free soaps plus specialist heavy-duty hand cleaners for industrial environments.

All hand hygiene products should be chosen to reflect the environment and tasks for which they are intended, says Essity’s communications director Renée Remijnse.

“For example, healthcare practitioners need to wash and sanitise their hands frequently so it is important to keep the skin on their hands healthy,” she said.  “Studies have shown that more bacteria and pathogens tend to be present on skin that is cracked or irritated, so all soaps and sanitisers should be as mild and gentle as possible to prevent irritation.”

The same is true of food industry environments, she says. “Hygiene is fundamental in the food preparation area and the hands here will need to be washed frequently throughout the day,” says Remijnse. “Hospitality teams will therefore require products that are kind to the skin. But they will also need soaps that can remove strong food odours such as fish and garlic from the hands.”

Essity’s Tork Odour-Control Liquid Soap is designed for this purpose.

Aesthetics are particularly important in a hospitality setting, she says. “Hygiene products here may be used to promote a luxury experience and enhance brand identity while working as a promotional tool,” she said. “Dispensers with modern designs, smooth surfaces and clean lines equipped with premium quality refills will create a good impression in a restaurant or hotel and boost the high-quality image of the venue.”

Industrial environments will have their own specific needs, she adds. “Here there will be a requirement for soaps with fat-dissolving ingredients that are capable of removing dirt, oil and grease from the skin,” she said. Essity’s Tork Oil & Grease Liquid Soap, for example, is designed for use in industrial settings.

All formulations in the food sector need to be colour and fragrance-free according to CWS head of marketing for hygiene Leandra Stroosnijder. “Employers are obliged to minimise the risk of cross-contamination, and all soaps used in the food sector should fit within the HACCP system,” she said.

Soaps used in industry need to be able to remove grease, dirt and paint from the hands while also being kind to the skin, she says. “It is important that hand washing can be achieved in a skin-friendly way and that the use of lotions is considered.”

She recommends an exfoliating soap incorporating vegetable particles for this purpose. “For example, CWS heavy-duty soap contains ground cornflour particles which are free of silicone and solvents and will not clog the drains.”

She adds that thorough hand hygiene is particularly important in healthcare settings. “Healthcare workers need to constantly wash and disinfect their hands - and this needs to be carried out carefully without harming the skin,” she said. CWS PureLine soaps are said to be pH skin-neutral and allergen-free and will cleanse the hands while leaving the natural skin barrier intact.

Drying equally important

Drying the hands thoroughly is just as important as washing them - particularly in the healthcare sector, she says. “Microorganisms can retain their hold and multiply more effectively in a moist environment,” says Stroosnijder. “In addition, rubbing the hands dry with a towel will help to remove any remaining germs from the hands.”

She says any products supplied in an upmarket hotel or office should be pleasing to the eye. New from CWS is the PureLine, described as an elegant washroom hygiene solution. The company also offers a range of soaps gels and hand drying solutions plus disinfectant foam soaps and hand lotions.

So it is clear that each environment has its own specific hand hygiene needs. But are any requirements common to all?

The primary purpose of all hand hygiene products is they should be able to clean and dry the hands effectively and gently according to Essity’s Renee Remijnse. “They should also be conveniently located and easy to use to encourage good hand hygiene behaviours,” she adds.

CWS’ Leandra Stroosnijder says aesthetically-pleasing hand hygiene products are important everywhere. “They lift the spirits and provide customers and visitors with a comfortable experience when visiting the washroom,” she said. “And they show people they are appreciated which will increase the chance that they will return to your establishment and recommend you to others.”

GOJO’s Chris Wakefield says all hand hygiene products should ultimately balance efficacy, skin health and a positive user experience. “If one of these elements is missing it will compromise success – either because of low compliance rates or because the product simply isn’t doing its job and killing germs effectively,” he said.


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