ASTM E2011-21: Test Method For Hygienic Handwash Agents

Human washing hands with soap for virus protection adhering to the test method in ASTM E2011-21.

On average you come into contact with 300 surfaces every 30 minutes, exposing you to 840,000 germs; yet, only 5% of people wash their hands correctly. Most bacteria on our hands is on the fingertips and under the nails, so hygienic handwash and handrub agents are critical to removing this bacteria. The test method in ASTM E2011-21: Standard Test Method For Evaluation Of Hygienic Handwash And Handrub Formulations For Virus-Eliminating Activity Using The Entire Hand evaluates the virus eliminating activity of hygienic handwash and handrub agents from experimentally-contaminated human hands.

Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is a way of cleaning one’s hands for at least 20 seconds that substantially reduces potential pathogens (harmful microorganisms) on the hands. It is considered the single most effective measure for reducing the risk of transmitting infection and the spread of diseases. Failing to sufficiently wash one’s hands contributes to nearly 50% of all foodborne illness outbreaks; handwashing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections (e.g., colds).

Hand hygiene procedures include the use of alcohol-based hand rubs (containing 60%–95% alcohol) and hand washing with soap and water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that unless hands are visibly soiled (e.g., dirt, blood, body fluids), an alcohol-based hand rub is preferred over soap and water in most clinical situations because it:

“Is more effective than soap at killing potentially deadly germs on hands, requires less time, is more accessible than handwashing sinks, produces reduced bacterial counts on hands, and improves skin condition with less irritation and dryness than soap and water.”

The ASTM E2011-21 Standard for Hygienic Handwash

The test method in ASTM E2011-21 is designed to evaluate handwash or handrub agents for their ability to reduce or eliminate viable viruses from the skin of human hands. This standard may involve hazardous materials, operations, and equipment. It is the responsibility of the user of ASTM E2011-21 to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices. Additionally, the user should determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use and consult a reference for laboratory safety recommendations. 

This test method is not meant for use with surgical hand scrubs or preoperative skin preparations.

Hygienic Handwash VS Handrub Agents

ASTM E2011-21 defines the difference between hygienic handwash agents and handrub agents as follows:

  1. Hygienic handwash agent: agents generally used for handwashing by personnel in hospitals, other health-care facilities, day-care centers, nursing homes, and food-handling establishments; should be safe for repeated use, non-irritating, fast-acting, and efficient in eliminating transient microorganisms from intact skin.
  2. Hygienic handrub agents (that is, hand sanitizers): agents not requiring rinsing and generally used for hand hygiene by personnel in hospitals, other health-care facilities, day-care centers, nursing homes, and food-handling establishments; should be safe for repeated use, non-irritating, fast-acting, and efficient in eliminating transient microorganisms from intact skin.

Astonishing Handwashing Facts and Stats

Handwashing may appear like a mundane routine task to prevent germs and illnesses. Studies, however, show that although germs are on many commonly touched everyday items (elevator buttons, phone, credit cards, and toilet seats) most humans do not wash their hands correctly.

  • Most people only wash their hands for 6 seconds (as opposed to the CDC’s recommendation of 20 seconds)
  • Around 33% of people do not use soap when washing their hands.
  • Only 20% of people wash their hands before preparing food, and 39% before eating food.
  • About 7% of women and 15% of men do not wash their hands at all after using the bathroom.
  • Only about 20% of people dry their hands after washing them despite that damp hands are 1,000x more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands.
  • There is fecal matter on 10% of credit cards, and 16% of cellphones.
  • Elevator buttons harbor 22% more bacteria than toilet seats.

ASTM E2011-21: Standard Test Method For Evaluation Of Hygienic Handwash And Handrub Formulations For Virus-Eliminating Activity Using The Entire Hand is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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