Access-related infections (ARIs), such as exit-site infections, tunnel infections, bacteremia, fungemia and peritonitis, are the Achilles' heel of dialysis, and contribute significantly to morbidity, mortality and excess healthcare costs in hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patient populations. Despite international guidelines recommending the avoidance of catheters for hemodialysis access, hospital admissions for vascular ARIs have doubled in the last decade. Moreover, repeated use of antibiotics to treat ARIs has been associated with the selection of multiresistant organisms, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci. ARIs result from direct inoculation of skin organisms during access cannulation/connection, migration of skin organisms along dialysis catheters into the bloodstream or peritoneal cavity, or contamination and colonization of catheter lumens with subsequent biofilm formation. This paper will review the epidemiology, pathogenesis and prevention of ARIs. It will focus specifically on randomized, controlled trial evidence in relation to the safety and efficacy of aseptic techniques, nasal eradication of S. aureus, oral antimicrobial prophylaxis, topical antimicrobial prophylaxis (including disinfectants, antibiotics and antibacterial honey), antimicrobial catheter lock solutions (including gentamicin, citrate and ethanol), antimicrobial-impregnated catheters, catheter design (straight vs coiled, single vs double cuff), peritoneal dialysis catheter connectology, catheter insertion technique, germicidal devices, vaccines and preinsertion antibiotic prophylaxis.