How hand washing water temperature impacts hand hygiene compliance
Hand washing water temperature is key for good hand hygiene practices, but what is the perfect water temperature for pathogen removal? Can cold water be used for handwashing? How hot is too hot of water temperature for skin health? How effective is a hand wash if the water is not hot enough? In this blog, we answer all these questions and explore the impact handwashing water temperature has on pathogens and hand hygiene compliance.
How are hand washing water temperature requirements determined?
Each country, state and city has hand washing temperature requirements. Therefore, it’s important to check both federal and local requirements for water temperature for proper hand washing at your facility. The FDA 2017 Food Code Requirements state a faucet must be equipped to provide a water temperature of at least 100 degrees for food safety:
What hand washing water temperature is needed to remove pathogens?
Both hot or cold water can be used for handwashing. Scientists have found that varying water temperature had no effect on pathogen reduction. That being said, most people prefer warm water over cold. However, water that’s too hot could also do more harm than good when it comes to hand hygiene.
Hot water temperature for hand washing is generally within 104 to 131 degrees fahrenheit and although at the high end of that range the heat could kill some pathogens, sustained contact with hands would scald the skin. Prolonged hot water exposure can also irritate the skin and negatively affect the protective layer on the outside, which can cause it to be less resistant to bacteria.
What hand washing water temperature is best for handwashing compliance?
The best hand washing temperature is that which is most comfortable for employees. Whether water is cooler or warmer (while still meeting federal and local requirements), it needs to be at a temperature that encourages employees to follow all handwashing steps for the proper length of time, or to keep their hands in a CleanTech® Automated Handwashing Station for the full 12 second automated hand wash cycle.