In developing countries, continuing education for healthcare staff may be limited by staff shortages and lack of sophisticated means of delivery. These limitations have implications for compliance with an important infection control practice, namely good hand hygiene. A comparison was made between the efficacy of two educational tools commonly used in healthcare and practical sanitation settings in developing countries, i.e. videotapes and flipcharts, in delivering hand hygiene education to 67 nurses in a paediatric hospital in El Salvador. Efficacy was measured on the basis of scores obtained in pre- and post-training tests consisting of 10 multiple-choice questions. Half of the nurses received video-based instruction and half received instruction via flipcharts. Both methods of instruction increased participants' knowledge of good hand hygiene, and the extent of knowledge acquisition by the two methods was similar. Feedback obtained from flipchart users six months after training indicated that most of the respondents used the flipchart to teach hand hygiene to patients' families (62.5%), patients (50%) and healthcare workers (43.8%). Flipchart users ranked flipcharts as their favourite educational tool. Flipcharts offer an economical, easy-to-use, non-technological yet effective alternative to videotapes for delivering education in developing countries. Although the use of flipcharts requires a skilled and well-trained instructor, flipcharts could be used more widely to deliver education in resource-poor settings.