WHO definition of hand hygiene products

Hand Hygiene is a general term used to describe any action that results in cleansing of hands and the removal of microorganisms from the hands. 

Common Hand hygiene products

Alcohol-based (hand) rub: An alcohol-containing preparation (liquid, gel, or foam) designed for application to the hands to inactivate microorganisms and/or temporarily suppress their growth. Such preparations may contain one or more types of alcohol, other active ingredients with excipients, and humectants. 

Antimicrobial (medicated) soap: Soap (detergent) containing an antiseptic agent at a concentration sufficient to inactivate microorganisms and/or temporarily suppress their growth. The detergent activity of such soaps may also dislodge transient microorganisms or other contaminants from the skin to facilitate their subsequent removal by water. 

Antiseptic agent:  An antimicrobial substance that inactivates microorganisms or inhibits their growth on living tissues. Examples include alcohols, chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), chlorine derivatives, iodine, chloroxylenol (PCMX), quaternary ammonium compounds, and triclosan.

Antiseptic hand wipe: A piece of fabric or paper pre-wetted with an antiseptic used for wiping hands to inactivate and/or remove microbial contamination. They may be considered as an alternative to washing hands with non-antimicrobial soap and water but, because they are not as effective at reducing bacterial counts on HCWs’ hands as alcohol-based hand-rubs or washing hands with an antimicrobial soap and water, they are not a substitute for using an alcohol-based hand-rub or antimicrobial soap.

Detergent (surfactant): Compounds that possess a cleaning action. They are composed of a hydrophilic and a lipophilic part and can be divided into four groups: anionic, cationic, amphoteric, and non-ionic. Although products used for handwashing or antiseptic handwash in health care represent various types of detergents, the term “soap” will be used to refer to such detergents in these guidelines. 

Plain soap: Detergents that contain no added antimicrobial agents, or may contain these solely as preservatives.

Waterless antiseptic agent: An antiseptic agent (liquid, gel, or foam) that does not require the use of exogenous water. After application, the individual rubs the hands together until the skin feels dry.