No consensus has been reached on the ideal isolation technique to prevent hospital-acquired infection in the patient with burns. This study reports four 2-month consecutive periods of microbial surveillance in a burn center intensive care unit. Phase I, the first period of surveillance, demonstrated a unit-acquired colonization rate of 63%, with the marker organisms appearing at 4 to 8 days. Direct observation of isolation technique showed a 51% error rate. A mandatory educational session reviewing the high colonization rates, observed breaks in isolation technique, and principles of infection control failed to decrease the colonization rates as measured in phase II. A simplified isolation technique was adopted, which led to a decrease in unit-acquired colonization, from 63% to 33% in phase III from phase I values (p = 0.0514); and to a significant delay in inception, from 7.8 to 21 days, in those colonized with Pseudomonas aeruginosa (p<0.05). The simplified isolation technique decreased isolation costs over a 6-month period from $53,000 to $30,000. To confirm the decrease colonization rates from phase I to phase III, a fourth 2-month surveillance period was undertaken 6 months later. Phase TV demonstrated similar results to those of phase III.