To quantify the effect of hand-hygiene interventions on rates of gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses and to identify interventions that provide the greatest efficacy, we searched 4 electronic databases for hand-hygiene trials published from January 1960 through May 2007 and conducted meta-analyses to generate pooled rate ratios across interventions (N=30 studies). Improvements in hand hygiene resulted in reductions in gastrointestinal illness of 31% (95% confidence intervals [CI]=19%, 42%) and reductions in respiratory illness of 21% (95% CI=5%, 34%). The most beneficial intervention was hand-hygiene education with use of nonantibacterial soap. Use of antibacterial soap showed little added benefit compared with use of nonantibacterial soap. Hand hygiene is clearly effective against gastrointestinal and, to a lesser extent, respiratory infections. Studies examining hygiene practices during respiratory illness and interventions targeting aerosol transmission are needed.