Research has demonstrated the hazards associated with patients’ bath basins and microbial contamination. In a previous study, soap and water bath basins in 3 acute care hospitals were found to be reservoirs for bacteria and potentially associated with the development of hospital-acquired infections. Bacteria grew in 98% of the basin samples; the most common were enterococci (54%), and 32% were gram-negative organisms.


To assess the presence of bacterial contaminants in wash basins when chlorhexidine gluconate solution is used in place of standard soap and water to wash patients.


Bathing with chlorhexidine gluconate is the standard of practice for all patients in intensive care units at St Vincent Hospital. Specimens from 90 bath basins used for 5 days or more were cultured for bacterial growth to assess contamination of basins when chlorhexidine gluconate is used.


Of the 90 basins cultured, only 4 came back positive for microbial growth; all 4 showed growth of gram-positive organisms. Three of the 4 organisms were identified as coagulase-negative staphylococcus, which is frequently found on the skin. This translates into a 95.5% reduction in bacterial growth when chlorhexidine gluconate is used as compared with soap and water in the previous study (Fisher exact test, P < .001). The only factor that was related to positive cultures of samples from basins was the sex of the patient.


Compared with the previous study examining microbial contamination of basins when soap and water was used to bathe patients, bacterial growth in patients’ bath basins decreased significantly with the use of chlorhexidine gluconate, drastically reducing the risk for hospital-acquired infections. Such reduced risk is especially important for critically ill patients at high risk for bacterial infection.

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