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The WHO recommends handwashing with soap and water for 20–40 seconds. In settings where soap is not available, ash or sand is used for handwashing, yet their efficacy as handwashing materials is underresearched. The purpose of this study was to quantify the removal of viruses using ash and sand as handwashing agents, and compare their efficacy to commonly recommended handwashing methods. We performed a volunteer study to estimate the log reduction value (LRV) of model viruses Phi6 and MS2 on hands after six handwashing conditions: two handwashing agents (ash and water, and sand and water) with two time points (5 and 20 seconds), and two handwashing agents (soap and water, and water only) with one time point (20 seconds). Plaque assays were used to measure infectious virus reduction. Handwashing with any of the handwashing agents for 20 seconds resulted in a greater LRV than the 2-log reduction U.S. Food and Drug Administration criteria for both viruses. Soap and water resulted in a significantly greater LRV (2.7–4.8) than washing with ash and water (2.0–2.8) or sand and water (1.8–2.7) for 5 seconds for both viruses, and water only resulted in a significantly higher LRV (2.8) than all ash (2.0–2.6) and sand (1.8–2.4) conditions for MS2 only. These results suggest that using ash or sand as handwashing agents can be efficacious in reducing viruses but may be less efficacious than soap, especially when used for shorter durations. Further research should investigate the use of ash and sand as handwashing agents in real-world settings.
Financial support: This study was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the coauthors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the United States Government.
Data availability: Zambrana W, Tong J, Anderson C, Boehm A, Wolfe M, 2022. Data on quantifying the viral reduction achieved using ash and sand as handwashing agents. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at: https://purl.stanford.edu/bb708mf8734.
Authors’ addresses: Winnie Zambrana, Jingyan Tong, Claire E. Anderson, and Alexandria B. Boehm, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, E-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com. Marlene K. Wolfe, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, and Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.