Published on July 25, 2023

Sanitizer Miniseries: Hand Washing & Sanitizing

Written by Adam Serfas

Sanitizer Miniseries: Hand Washing & Sanitizing

In our first post of the sanitizer miniseries, we broke down all things related to surface sanitization. Today, we’re focusing on hand hygiene and sanitizing. If you haven’t yet read it, we suggest you check out the first post!

The Difference Between Cleaning And Sanitizing The Importance of Hand Hygiene In Food Processing And Hygiene-Sensitive Facilities

Hand hygiene is the first line of defense in reducing cross-contamination in food-safe and hygiene-sensitive facilities, helping protect people and products. The CDC maintains an entire resource hub on all things hand hygiene. The FDA keeps an updated Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Handbook, and the WHO has its own guide here. Over the years, countless scientific studies have demonstrated the importance and effectiveness of hand hygiene with regard to public health and food safety.

The Difference Between Hand Washing And Sanitizing 

Hand washing with soap and water will help to remove dirt and microbes, whereas sanitizing hands will kill most bacteria. Hand washing always comes before sanitizing. In food-safe and hygiene-sensitive environments, employees and anyone else entering the facility will usually need to wash and sanitize their hands multiple times a day.
For food processing or preparation settings, FDA specifies that hands should always be cleaned immediately after engaging in activities that contaminate the hands and:

  • When entering a food preparation area;
  • Before putting on clean, single-use gloves for working with food and between glove changes;
  • Before engaging in food preparation;
  • Before handling clean equipment and serving utensils;
  • When changing tasks and switching between handling raw foods and working with RTE foods;
  • After handling soiled dishes, equipment, or utensils;
  • After touching bare human body parts, for example, parts other than clean hands and clean, exposed portions of arms;
  • After using the toilet;
  • After coughing, sneezing, blowing the nose, using tobacco, eating, or drinking; and
  • After caring for or handling services animals or aquatic animals such as molluscan shellfish or crustacea in display tanks.

Healthcare settings have their own set of guidelines for when to wash hands set by the CDC.

Choosing Between Hand Soap Gels vs. Foams

A few different factors differentiate hand soaps on the market today. The first major difference is hand soap gel vs. foam. Here at RSQP, we carry both options. The main differentiator is that gel soaps do not spread as far as foam soaps, meaning the coverage spread can be somewhat sparser. For that reason, most food processing facilities and other facilities with high levels of hygiene sensitivity will choose foam-based soaps.

Choosing Between Hand Soaps With / Without Emollients

Another key distinction that sets some soaps apart is the presence of emollients. Most soaps will strip your skin’s natural moisture, and in facilities where hand washing is a standard practice happening multiple times throughout the day, that can eventually lead to serious skin irritation and cracking. Soaps with added emollients help to moisturize as you wash, helping to prevent that irritation. This seemingly small ingredient addition can go a long way, as it’s understandable to want to avoid something that’s causing discomfort, and the last thing you want is for employees to hesitate about hand washing. The Best Sanitizers Alpet Q E2 line is an excellent option for facilities with high-frequency hand washing needs as a soap that’s tough on germs but gentle on hands.

Choosing Sanitizers That Meet Your Regulatory Requirements

As with high-quality hand soaps, there are some different options and guidelines to consider for sanitizers. At the highest level, the most important thing to confirm is whether or not your sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol—the recommended amount according to the CDC. Sanitizers in food processing settings need to meet additional FDA and NSF requirements. The FDA keeps an updated Do-Not-Use List, and the NSF White Book provides a list of verified food-safe options. To make things easy for our food-safe customers, every sanitizer we carry at RSQP meets these requirements.

Choosing Between Sanitizer Foams & Sprays 

At RSQP, we carry both sanitizer foams and sprays. Both are effective options, but the spray sanitizer is more easily spread, meaning it can be better at getting into high-risk areas such as under fingernails and on the back of the hands and thumbs. For that reason, many food-safe facilities, in particular, will prefer sprays over foams. Whatever kind you choose, it’s imperative users spread the sanitizers all over their hands and wait for the listed kill time before touching anything.

Hand Hygiene Training

Regular hand hygiene training is essential in any food-safe and hygiene-sensitive facility. Our friends at Best Sanitizers, Inc. offer free facility hand washing training, both virtually and in-person, and we cannot recommend it enough as it’s a truly hands-on, entertaining, and educational experience.

Hand Hygiene Signage

In addition to holding training sessions, it’s important to have signage near hand washing stations to reiterate the importance of, and best practices for, hand hygiene. We recommend custom signage that can serve as an ongoing visual reminder for employees of site-specific considerations, such as the kill time of your sanitizer. Here at RSQP, we’ve helped many facilities create custom signage for this very purpose and have a blog post with some signage best practices here.