Scientists in Scotland may have discovered the most effective way to blast bacteria from health care workers' hands.
They say a thorough six-step technique using an alcohol-based hand rub, as recommended by the World Health Organization, is the best method.
Watch how it's done:
Jacqui Reilly, a professor of infection prevention and control at Glasgow Caledonian University, led a study observing how 42 doctors and 72 nurses used the rub and cleaned their hands after treating patients.
For the research, which was published this month in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, scientists recorded how long it took the health care workers to wash their hands, as well as their pre- and post-washing median bacterial counts.
The health care workers who performed the six-step technique took an average of 42.5 seconds and reduced their median bacterial count from 3.28 to 2.58.
Those who used a three-step technique -- applying the alcohol-based product to one hand, rubbing their hands together until they were fully covered, then rubbing until they were dry -- spent 7.5 seconds less on the process. Their median bacterial count lowered from 3.08 to an average of 2.88.
Reilly said that there had previously been "limited evidence on which technique is most effective" and that this study provided "a foundation for effective best practices to implement on the front lines of healthcare."