Considering User Preference and Acceptability to Optimise Alcohol Based Hand Rub Design for Real-World Effectiveness

Dr John Hines1, Mrs Christina Bradley2, Mr Kevin Ormandy1, Dr Martyn Wilkinson2

1Sc Johnson Professional Ltd, Denby, United Kingdom,
2University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Edgbaston, United Kingdom


Alcohol Based Hand Rubs (ABHRs) are an important vehicle for healthcare hand antisepsis. International guidelines promote frequent use by frontline staff. Despite this little study has been made on the effect of product aesthetics and handling characteristics on preference, tolerability and compliance. In addition, little work has been done to establish the relationship and any trade-offs between effectiveness and tolerability as a function of product dose and format.


Sensory descriptive analysis was employed to establish key differences between ten marketed ABHRs (three gels, four foams, two liquids, one aerosol foam) as a function of dose. Focus groups reinforced these differences. EN1500 method was used to establish antimicrobial efficacy as a function of dose for 2 model formulations (80% ethanol (EtOH) and 60% Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA)) each prepared in liquid, gel and foam formats. Drying time and user acceptability of each formula at each dose was assessed.


Acceptability decreased with dose for all formats due to handling and convenience. Gel and foam formats were more desirable than liquid. Desirable properties include: fast absorption, soft/moisturized hand feel, not sticky, clean feel, low smell. Antimicrobial efficacy was not related to product format and increased linearly with dose.


For infection prevention effective hand hygiene must be performed at the right times. Our studies indicate that careful selection of ABHR properties, format and dosage are important factors in optimising compliance while ensuring effectiveness. Our results indicate that an ethanol based ABHR in foam format at 1.5ml dose provides the best balance.


Dr Hines gained his PhD in Chemistry at Oxford University before joining Unilever as an R&D sicentist where he worked in product development on numerous well known global brands. John joined Deb (now SC Johnson Professional) as Global Research and Development Director in 2010 and in that role has lead the development and launch of several successful innovations in the world of “professional skincare” from hand hygiene in healthcare to industrial handwashing and skin protection. John firmly believes that professional products should be as pleasant to use as those we find at home and that thoroughly understanding how, why & when people use products in the real-world is the key to successful innovations.

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