Information for Patients and Visitors

Hand hygiene is the single most important factor in reducing hospital acquired infections. Our hands may look clean but many germs are invisible to our eyes. We can unknowingly transmit germs on our hands to others and our environment.

Why hand hygiene matters

When we are fit and healthy we can usually defend ourselves against many germs. Having healthy intact skin is one of the main ways we can do this.

Often our natural defences are weakened when we are not well, or after an operation.

It’s very important that each time you visit someone in a healthcare facility you clean your hands, even if your hands look clean.

Healthcare associated infections can result in:

  • illness
  • a longer stay in hospital
  • slower recovery
  • additional stress for all concerned.

When should you clean your hands?

Hand hygiene is a general term referring to the use of soap & water or a waterless hand rub to cleanse your hands.

It is important to perform hand hygiene:

  • as you enter and leave any healthcare facility
  • after going to the toilet
  • after blowing your nose
  • after smoking
  • after handling/patting animals
  • before, during & after preparing food
  • when your hands are visibly dirty.

Using Alcohol Hand Rubs

When your hands are visibly clean you should:

  • remove excess jewellery
  • squirt enough hand rub product to cover both your hands
  • roll to distribute over palms, back of hands & between fingers
  • rub hands together until dry.

Bottles of alcohol hand rub should be located in all patient care areas and in high traffic areas.

Using soap and water

When your hands are visibly dirty you should:

  • remove excess jewellery
  • wet hands with water
  • apply soap
  • rub all over
  • rinse off with water
  • pat hands dry with paper towel and dispose in bin.

Hand basins are located throughout all healthcare facilities.

Working together

Your healthcare worker should always perform hand hygiene in front of you. If you did not see them and are worried please feel free to remind them. We can all play a major role in stopping the spread of infections to our family and friends.

For further information contact the Infection Control Unit at your hospital or

Hand Hygiene Australia
c/o Austin Health Infectious Diseases Department
PO Box 5555 Heidelberg
Victoria, Australia 3084
Phone: 9496 6707 or 9496 6706

Reference: Hand Hygiene Australia, Hand Hygiene Information Brochure – Acute


Disclaimer This document describes the generally accepted practice at the time of publication only. It is only a summary of clinical knowledge regarding this area. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital makes no warranty, express or implied, that the information contained in this document is comprehensive. They accept no responsibility for any consequence arising from inappropriate application of this information.

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  • Hand Hygiene #33
  • Owner: Infection Control
  • Last Reviewed: February 1, 2023
  • Next Review: August 19, 2027