Why handwashing is your first line of defence against the future spread of COVID-19

Global Handwashing Day, celebrated every year on 15 October, is a day dedicated to advocating for handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

Handwashing has come under the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic. 94% of consumers surveyed by Kimberly-Clark Professional say they are washing or sanitising their hands more than they did before the pandemic.1 Practicing hand hygiene is a simple yet effective way to help prevent the spread of germs, particularly after using the toilet, handling waste and before preparing food. Now that the rate of handwashing has increased, this needs to be sustained and supported.

Global Handwashing Day Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay
94% of consumers surveyed by Kimberly-Clark Professional say they are washing or sanitising their hands more than they did before the pandemic

The critical role of hand hygiene

The unprecedented nature of the ongoing pandemic has highlighted the critical role hand hygiene plays in disease transmission. As we enter a new normal beyond COVID-19, the future state of hygiene is in our hands. Therefore, the 2021 Global Handwashing Day theme is “Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together.”2

While practicing excellent hand hygiene is the responsibility of every individual, it is up to facility managers to provide the means to do so. The World Health Organization released new recommendations and guidelines stipulating that hygiene facilities should be established at the entrance to all public and private commercial buildings. Prior to the pandemic, hand hygiene facilities in public places had not been a priority for governments or the private sector.2 Without the correct hand hygiene system in place, helping to stop the spread of bacteria and germs with clean hands will always be a challenge.

How to select the right hand hygiene system

Just as buildings and facilities are equipped for specific functions, hand hygiene systems can vary in utility and performance. Selecting the right system requires various considerations, such as the hygiene needs of the facility, budget, operational efficiency, product compatibility and brand familiarity. Investing in desirable and convenient hygiene infrastructure and products is likely to sustain the increased hand hygiene practices. It is also a visible indicator of the level of investment companies are making in their building and in their people. 84% of consumers view familiar brands as an important signal of a clean and hygienic environment.3

If you haven’t already, consider installing the latest electronic or touchless dispensing solutions. To further reduce the spread of germs consider installing dispensers with no joins, ridges, keyholes or other dirt traps.

Moisturising foam hand soap serves as a complementary skincare product for high-capacity, electronic dispensers. Foam soap delivers up to twice as many washes per litre as conventional liquid soaps and controlled dispensing reduces waste. Foam soap is ideal when water is limited, as it requires 16-45% less water to wash hands and it rinses faster.

When water is not available, hand sanitiser offers a convenient hand hygiene solution. Hand sanitiser should contain at least 60% alcohol to help prevent people within your facility from spreading germs to others.

Since nearly 95% of adults do not wash long enough to thoroughly clean the bacteria and germs from their hands4, hand drying is important too. Drying hands with a single-use paper towel is the safest way to reduce the spread of viruses, because the rubbing process of paper towels physically removes bacteria along with moisture. Paper towels are the recommended hand drying method of the World Health Organization.

“While businesses are responsible for keeping employees and visitors safe, we’re here to help them create a hygiene improvement plan,” says Kristel Dreyer, associate marketing manager of Kimberly-Clark Professional South Africa. “We have a lot of great resources to help companies implement more hygienic hand cleaning and drying protocols.”


1.         Kimberly-Clark Professional, Hygiene Behaviour Consumer Study, May 2020

2.         https://globalhandwashing.org/global-handwashing-day/about-ghd/

3.         Kimberly-Clark Professional COVID-19 Thought Leader Content Research – Consumer Topline (June, 2020)

4.         Borchgrevink, C.P., Cha, J. and Kim, S., 2013. Hand washing practices in a college town environment. Journal of environmental health, 75(8), p.18.; Hand Washing Practices in a College Town Environment, Journal of Environmental Health

Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za