Clean Hands Report Card: Americans Get a B- on Hand Hygiene

In the fifth annual Clean Hands Report Card issued by the Soap and Detergent Association, America’s grade for hand hygiene has risen from a C-minus in 2008 to a B-minus. 

The Report Card is based on a series of hygiene-related questions asked of 888 Americans during a telephone survey conducted in August 2009 by Echo Research. 

Among the good news of SDA’s 2009 survey:

• 50 percent say they wash their hands more than 10 times per day (up from 36 percent).

• 70 percent wash up at least seven times per day (up from 62 percent).

• Across the board, more Americans claim to always wash their hands before eating lunch, after coughing or sneezing and after using the bathroom.

Among the bad news of SDA’s 2009 survey:

• While 62 percent of women are washing more than 10 times per day, only 37 percent of men are doing the same.

• 39 percent of respondents seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing (on par with 2008).

• 46 percent of respondents wash their hands for 15 seconds or less (on par with 2008). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SDA recommend washing with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds.

“The H1N1 pandemic is real. Cold and flu season is on its way.  With common sense hygiene practices, good health is literally in our hands,” said Nancy Bock, SDA’s vice president of education. 

Survey results recently released by SDA show that nearly two-thirds of adults (65 percent) expressed concern about H1N1 flu (women more than men: 72 percent, 57 percent, respectively).  But only one-third of respondents said they changed their overall hygiene habits in response to the growing concerns about H1N1.

“Now is not the time to let our guard down when it comes to cleaning our hands,” added Bock. 

SDA produces the annual Report Card to raise awareness of International Clean Hands Week, Sept. 20-26, which touts handwashing as the easiest path to staying healthy.  Clean Hands Week is sponsored by the Clean Hands Coalition (www.cleanhandscoalition.org), an alliance of public and private partners working together to create and support coordinated, sustained initiatives to significantly improve health and save lives through clean hands.

Download SDA’s Virtual Cold & Flu Toolkit

SDA has created a virtual, no-cost cold and flu toolkit – ideal for families, educators, health professionals, community leaders and all others interested in promoting good health and hygiene.

You can find these materials online at www.cleaning101.com/sda-cold-flu-toolkit/. 

The SDA Clean Hands Report Card® was based on a telephone survey, which queried 888 American heads of households (446 men and 442 women).  The independent consumer research study was completed August 21-24, 2009, on behalf of SDA, by Echo Research. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Survey Findings

The following questions were asked of 888 American adults (446 men and 442 women).  The independent consumer research study was completed August 6-9, 2009, on behalf of The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), by Echo Research.  The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent.

Approximately how many times do you wash your hands on an average day?

Results:

-- More than 10 times (50 percent); up 14 percent from 2008

-- 7-10 times (20 percent); down 6 percent from 2008

-- 5-6 times (18 percent); down 6 percent from 2008

-- 3-4 times (10 percent); down 2 percent from 2008

-- 1-2 times (1 percent) same as 2008

Additional Insights:

-- 14 percent more Americans are washing their hands at least 10 times per day.  However, while 62 percent of women are washing more than 10 times per day, only 37 percent of men are doing the same.

-- 41 percent of men wash their hands 6 times a day or less, compared to only 17 percent of women.

-- On average, American heads of household wash their hands 8.6 times per day (up from 8.0 in 2008).

When you wash your hands, how long do you typically lather them, or rub them with soap?

Results:

-- More than 20 seconds (26 percent); up 1 percent from 2008

-- 15-20 seconds (27 percent); same as 2008

-- 10-15 seconds (31 percent); down 2 percent from 2008

-- Less than 10 seconds (15 percent); up 2 percent from 2008

Additional Insights:

-- 46 percent of heads of household do not wash their hands for maximum efficacy.  Every one should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds.

-- 57 percent of women report they wash their hands for at least 15 seconds, as do 49 percent of men.

How often do you wash your hands after you cough or sneeze?

Results:

-- Always (26 percent); up 4 percent from 2008

-- Frequently (34 percent); down 3 percent from 2008

-- Seldom (31 percent); down 1 percent from 2008

-- Never (8 percent); up 1 percent from 2008

Additional Insights:

-- Only 60 percent of American heads of household always or frequently wash their hands after they cough or sneeze.  39 percent seldom or never do.

-- Women are much more likely to wash their hands after they cough or sneeze. According to the data, 71 percent of women always or frequently wash afterwards, as compared to only 48 percent of men.  Additionally, 51 percent seldom or never wash up after coughing or sneezing, as compared to 29 percent of women.

How often do you wash your hands before eating lunch?

Results:

-- Always (67 percent); up 6 percent from 2008

-- Frequently (21 percent); down 4 percent from 2008

-- Seldom (9 percent); down 1 percent from 2008

-- Never (4 percent); same as 2008

Additional Insights:

-- Not everyone follows the routine of washing their hands before lunch, as evidenced by 33 percent who don’t always wash before eating lunch.

-- 88 percent of American heads of household always or frequently wash their hands before eating lunch.  12 percent seldom or never do.

-- Males and females are equally likely to wash up before eating lunch.

How often do you wash your hands after going to the bathroom?

Results:

-- Always (90 percent); up 5 percent from 2008

-- Frequently (6 percent); down 4 percent from 2008

-- Seldom (1 percent); down 1 percent from 2008

-- Never (3 percent); same as 2008

Insight:

-- 96 percent of American heads of household always or frequently wash their hands after they go to the bathroom.  4 percent seldom or never do.

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