MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. — How often do you wash your hands? Whether keeping your hands clean is religiously incorporated into your day-to-day or seen as more of an option, many people believe it is important for staying healthy. Despite that, a new poll finds nearly half of Americans don’t do a great job of thoroughly scrubbing away germs. In fact, some don’t even use soap!
According to the Healthy Handwashing Survey™ from Bradley Corporation, 93 percent of adults believe handwashing is essential to maintaining their overall health – a sentiment that’s nearly universal across gender, age and geography. The need for feeling clean has risen in recent years. In 2009, only 45 percent of people felt the need to wash their hands diligently. This rate hit its peak in 2020 with 90 percent of people washing up carefully during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 and has since decreased to 85 percent as people have become more relaxed.
The survey also found that people tend to ramp up their handwashing before and during travel. During road trips, 75 percent of adults make a conscious effort to wash their hands wherever they stop along the way. At airports, 69 percent keep their hands clean, and 63 percent do so when there’s a special occasion or the holidays are approaching.
So, why are so many people gung-ho about sudsing up? Almost 70 percent say they feel healthier or safer immediately after washing their hands.
“Handwashing, using soap and warm water, is an easy and effective way to reduce the spread of disease-causing organisms,” says medical microbiologist Michael P. McCann, Ph.D., professor and chair of biology, Saint Joseph’s University, in a statement. “Given the ease with which some of these organisms can be spread on solid surfaces, in food, and by other means, handwashing is something that everyone should do after activities like using the restroom.”
How do you wash your hands?
Aside from the obvious trip to the bathroom, what other activities call for handwashing? Respondents answered that they are likely to wash up after sneezing or coughing (60%), using a shopping cart (58%), touching money (57%), shaking someone’s hand (51%), and visiting the doctor’s office (50%).
When it comes to scrubbing your hands clean, everybody has a different method to the madness. Some argue they are “Rule Followers” (51%). This means they lather with soap, scrub completely, rinse and dry. “The Lather and Linger” group (35%) also do a very thorough job of washing up.
One in three people find their hand-washing success lies in the “Twice as Good” method which involves using two pumps of soap every time to make sure it’s a thorough clean. Meanwhile, 20 percent follow up with the “Human Dryer” method, option for their clothing as a towel instead of anything in the bathroom.
Most surprisingly, 45 percent of people admit they skip soap altogether and simply rinse their hands. This leads many other bathroom patrons with a negative impression of these so-called skippers (65%), along with anyone who frequently touches their nose, eyes, and mouth being a turn off (40%).
Public restroom standards
Upon entering a public restroom, some have their guard immediately up with a few tactics to prevent being exposed to any pesky germs. When it comes to touching surfaces, 62 percent use a paper towel when touching door handles and faucets and 43 percent use their foot to flush.
Similarly, people implement hovering over the toilet seat (31%), opening and closing doors with their behind (27%), and using their elbow to operate the paper towel dispenser (20%).
The cleanliness of public restrooms has an impact on a business‘s reputation, too. Eighty-two percent of consumers think touchless bathroom fixtures are a must, while 52 percent might think twice about returning to an establishment with a dirty bathroom.
The annual Healthy Handwashing Survey from Bradley Corporation queried 1,025 American adults Jan. 4-10, 2023, about their handwashing habits, concerns about the coronavirus and flu and their use of public restrooms. Participants were from around the country and were fairly evenly split between men (45%) and women (55%).