Background: Foams containing 62% ethanol are used for hand decontamination in many countries. A long drying time may reduce the compliance of healthcare workers in applying the recommended amount of foam. Therefore, we have investigated the correlation between the applied amount and drying time, and the bactericidal efficacy of ethanol foams.
Methods: In a first part of tests, four foams (Alcare plus, Avagard Foam, Bode test foam, Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer) containing 62% ethanol, which is commonly used in U.S. hospitals, were applied to 14 volunteers in a total of seven variations, to measure drying times. In a second part of tests, the efficacy of the established amount of foam for a 30 s application time of two foams (Alcare plus, Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer) and water was compared to the EN 1500 standard of 2 x 3 mL applications of 2-propanol 60% (v/v), on hands artificially contaminated with Escherichia coli. Each application used a cross-over design against the reference alcohol with 15 volunteers.
Results: The mean weight of the applied foam varied between 1.78 and 3.09 g, and the mean duration to dryness was between 37 s and 103 s. The correlation between the amount of foam applied and time until hands felt dry was highly significant (p < 0.001; Pearson's correlation coefficient: 0.724; 95% confidence interval: 0.52-0.93). By linear correlation, 1.6 g gave an intercept of a 30 s application time. Application of 1.6 g of Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer (mean log10-reduction: 3.05 +/- 0.45) and Alcare plus (3.58 +/- 0.71) was significantly less effective than the reference disinfection (4.83 +/- 0.89 and 4.60 +/- 0.59, respectively; p < 0.001). Application of 1.6 g of water gave a mean log10-reduction of 2.39 +/- 0.57.
Conclusions: When using 62% ethanol foams, the time required for dryness often exceeds the recommended 30 s. Therefore, only a small volume is likely to be applied in clinical practice. Small amounts, however, failed to meet the efficacy requirements of EN 1500 and were only somewhat more effective than water.