Hand washing: changes in the skin flora

Am J Infect Control. 2007 Aug;35(6):417-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2006.07.012.


Frequent hand washing may result in skin damage and increase the number of microorganisms that colonize the skin. The purpose of this study was to evaluate changes in total flora of healthy and damaged hands that were caused by the use of gloves, soap, and antiseptics. Samples were collected from the healthy and damaged hands of 30 health care professionals before and after washing with water and nonmedicated soap for the technique of sterile polyethylene bag. Fifteen additional volunteers (technicians and students) were asked to wash their hands 20 times with water and soap; those with complaints of irritation were evaluated separately. Damaged or healthy hands did not present statistically significant differences (P > .05) in terms of qualitative analysis of epidemiologically important microorganisms; however, washing with water and soap was effective only for healthy hands. In short, the water and soap washing of damaged hands was not effective in reducing their contamination.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brazil
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Gloves, Surgical / adverse effects
  • Hand Disinfection*
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Medical Laboratory Personnel
  • Nurses
  • Skin / injuries
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Skin Diseases / microbiology*
  • Soaps / adverse effects


  • Soaps