Water temperature as a factor in handwashing efficacy


Correspondence: Barry Michaels Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Technology Center, PO Box 919 (Hwy. 216), Palatka, Florida 32178, USA. Tel: 386-312-1184. Fax: 386-312-1198. E-mail: bsmichae@gapac.com


For many years, sanitarians have specified that the hands of food service workers should be washed and rinsed in warm or hot water to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and disease transmission. In the food service environment, it has been suggested that handwashing with water at higher temperatures contributes to skin damage when frequent handwashing is necessitated, and that insistence on hot water usage is a deterrent to handwashing compliance. Separate handwashing studies involving different water temperatures and soap types (antibacterial versus non-antibacterial) were performed. The ‘glove-juice’ technique was employed for microbial recovery from hands in both studies. Initial work evaluated antimicrobial efficacy based on water temperature during normal handwashing with bland soap. Uninoculated, sterile menstrua (tryptic soy broth or hamburger meat) was used to study the effects of treatment temperatures (4.4°C, 12.8°C, 21.1°C, 35°C or 48.9°C) on the reduction of resident microflora, while Serratia marcescens-inoculated menstrua was used to evaluate treatment effects on the reduction of transient contamination. Results of this first study indicated that water temperature exhibits no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction during normal handwashing with bland soap. The follow-up study examined the efficacy and skin irritation potential involving water temperatures with antimicrobial soaps. Hands of participants were contaminated with Escherichia coli inoculated ground beef, washed at one of two water temperatures (29°C or 43°C) using one of four highly active (USDA E2 equivalency) antibacterial soaps having different active ingredients (PCMX, Iodophor, Quat or Triclosan). Skin condition was recorded visually and with specialized instrumentation before and after repeated washing (12 times daily), measuring total moisture content, transepidermal water loss and erythema. Overall, the four soap products produced similar efficacy results. Although there were slight increases in Log10 reductions, visual skin irritation, loss of skin moisture content and transepidermal water loss at higher temperatures, results were not statistically significant for any parameter.