You might notice that some of the exam rooms at Ticho Eye Associates have only water-free hand scrubs — no sinks. The COVID-19 pandemic made use of such hand cleaners pretty universal and convenient.
In medicine, the spectacle of the doctor washing hands in front of the patient has long been a reassuring ritual regarding cleanliness and antisepsis. Surgeons traditionally scrub for two minutes using plastic brushes and a variety of water-based antiseptic soaps. Now, alcohol-based sanitizers are available in most surgical settings, and have largely replaced the traditional sink scrubs for many surgeons and surgical nurses.
The transition to water-free methods of cleaning has proved more than extra convenience; there are environmental and cost advantages as well. A recent study from The University of Miami (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32105297/) concluded that surgical use of water-free cleaners would significantly reduce water consumption and overall institutional costs. The study authors measured the water use in a full 2-minute scrub to be 15.9 liters. They projected the consumables cost one surgical staff member’s use of alcohol-based surgical scrub in a year to be $4650. In contrast, the consumable cost of wet scrubs using dispensers and scrub brushes was calculated as $9190 using the dispensers and $6470 using chlorhexidine gluconate–impregnated scrub brushes.
Like others, I have found that my hands get much less irritated after a day of using water-free cleaners, instead of using soap and water 40+ times. Glad that what saves my epidermis also has expense environmental benefits too!
Benjamin H. Ticho, MD