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Basic Principles and How To's of Surgical Scrubbing

Updated on January 17, 2012

Surgical Scrubbing is the removal of the germs and bacteria as possible from the bare hands and arms. It is done with the use of sterile technique, mechanical washing and chemical disinfection before participating in the operation or surgery. This is done before gowning and gloving. The purpose of this procedure is to prevent possible contamination of operative wound by bacteria on the hands and arms of the nurses and surgeon.


Preparation prior to Surgical Scrub:

  • Make sure that your skin and nails are clean. Nails should be short and no cuticles.
  • Fingernails should not reach beyond the fingertip to avoid glove puncture.
  • Inspect hands for cuts and abrasions. Skin should not have open lesions or cracked skin.
  • Remove all jewelry.
  • Be sure that your hair is covered by headgear.
  • Adjust disposable mask. Make sure that the mask is perfectly fitted and you are comfortable with it.
  • Adjust the water to the comfortable temperature.

Surgical Scrubbing Methods

Time Method

  • This surgical scrub method has two sub-types: Complete Scrubbing and Short Scrub.
  • Complete Scrub takes about five to seven minutes. This is done before the first gowning and gloving, if the gloves have been removed before the gown, if the gloves have a lot of hole between them, if the hands have been contaminated in any other way, and before any emergency surgery procedure.
  • Short Scrub takes about three minutes. This is done to remove bacteria that have emerged from the pores and multiplied while the gloves are on.

Brush Stroke Method

  • A number of brush strokes is done for each surface of the fingers, hands, and arms.

Steps on Surgical Scrubbing

  1. Turn on water and get the antiseptic solution.
  2. Wash hands prior to scrubbing.
  3. Clean finger under running water.
  4. Scrub the hand, as well as the fingertips.
  5. Scrub the left arm and the left elbow.
  6. Rinse the brush that is used and transfer to the other hand.
  7. Scrub your right arm and the right elbow area.
  8. Rinse.
  9. Complete scrub by anatomical timed or stroke count.
  10. Scrub the nails of one hand with 30 strokes, all sides of each finger with 20 strokes, back of the hand with 20 strokes, palm of the hand with 20 strokes, and the arms with 20 strokes. All strokes should be applied lengthwise.
  11. Rinse well.
  12. Turn the water faucet with brush if water faucet is hand-controlled.
  13. Walk to the operating room with the hands on the level of the heart. Make sure that your scrubbed hands will not touch anything, or it will be considered unsterile and you need to do the surgical scrubbing again.


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