When to Hand Wash and When to Sanitize?

Rub hands for hygiene! Wash hands when visibly soiled! It’s what I read from hospital mini hand rubbing poster. Base on these two sentences, it is safe to assume that every individual needs to wash hands only when there are visible hand dirt. Rubbing with over-the-counter hand sanitizer is enough when hands appear clean.

Are my assumptions accurate? Think again! CDC operations manual for Vessel Sanitation Program is speaking of more detailed information. The instructions refers to food handlers but such methods could also be practiced by everyone like what the popular hand soap brand is preaching.

Here they are:

Cleaning Procedures. Food employees shall clean their hands and exposed portions of their arms with a cleaning compound in a hand washing sink by vigorously rubbing together the surfaces of their lathered hands and arms for at least 20 seconds and thoroughly rinsing with clean water. Employees shall pay particular attention to the areas underneath the fingernails and between the fingers.

When To Wash Hands. Food employees shall clean their hands and exposed portions of their arms immediately before engaging in food preparation including working with exposed food, clean equipment and utensils, and unwrapped single­ service and single­ use articles and:

1  After touching bare human body parts other than clean hands and clean, exposed portions of arms;

2. After using the toilet room;

3.  After coughing, sneezing, using a handkerchief or disposable tissue, using tobacco, eating, or drinking;

4. After handling soiled equipment or utensils;

5. During food preparation, as often as necessary to remove soil and contamination and to prevent cross­ contamination when changing tasks;

6. When switching between working with raw food and working with ready­-to­-eat food; and

7. After engaging in other activities that contaminate the hands.

Vessel Sanitation Program
Operations Manual
August 2005
U.S. Public Health Service
Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention
National Center for Environmental Health


One Comment

  • I still say that handwashing is necessary especially when handling food. Rubbing with hand sanitizers is not enough. Besides, handwashing is the initial and most effective method in removing bacteria from the skin.

Join the Discussion