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Publication #FAR8705

Hand Hygiene1

Amy Simonne and Donna Davis2

As a child, I always thought my mom was being a little obsessive when she made us wash our hands before every meal. Then I had children. The thought of some of the things that went in my children's mouths as youngsters still gives me the shivers.

Hand hygiene is one of the most powerful weapons in reducing the transmission of infectious agents. However, conflicting hand hygiene recommendations for different settings are causing confusion as to what's the best practice to follow or what products should be used for daily hand washing and hygiene.

Many people have the misconception that their immediate environment must be germ free. However, we live in a natural world full of microorganisms, some which can cause illness or disease. Others are essential to our environment and well-being.

Recommendations for hand washing and hand sanitation can vary depending on a person's job function and personal health requirements. Research has shown that hand sanitizers can be as effective as hand washing only in certain situations. Because dirt, food, or anything else on your hands can make alcohol in sanitizers less effective, it's important to first wash your hands with soap and water. But when soap and water aren't available, an alcohol gel is certainly better than nothing at all…even if your kids think you may be a little obsessive.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:


Simonne, A. (2005). Hand hygiene and hand sanitizers (FCS8788). Retrieved May 9, 2007, from



This document is FAR8705, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 189 and published April 2009. Revised April 2009. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Amy Simonne, associate professor, and Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.