National Survey Finds Americans Lax in Handwashing Habits

A national handwashing survey reveals the majority of Americans are not washing their hands long enough. Fifty-seven percent of respondents estimate they wash their hands for just 5 to 15 seconds. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing for at least 20 seconds and suggests singing "Happy Birthday" twice to allow enough time to remove and rinse off germs.

And, although the flu season peaks in February, the survey found that most Americans don't adjust their handwashing habits seasonally. Seventy-five percent said they don't increase their hand washing during any specific time of the year.

The findings are part of the fourth annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey conducted by Bradley Corporation, a manufacturer of bathroom and locker room furnishings, including sinks, faucets, hand dryers, showers and lockers.

"Everyone needs to know that handwashing is the first line of defense against infection and illness," says medical microbiologist Michael McCann, PhD, a professor of biology and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. 

The survey also found that 70 percent of Americans say they always wash their hands after using a public restroom, 29 percent sometimes skip that important action and one percent admit they never wash after using a public restroom.

Unfortunately, some businesses are coming up short with their restroom facilities. The survey found that 51 percent of Americans say they've had a particularly unpleasant experience in a public restroom due to the condition of the facilities. Gas stations outstripped other locations for awful experiences and most respondents cited a bad smell as the No. 1 cause for unpleasantness.

Bradley's Healthy Hand Washing Survey queried 1,046 American adults Aug. 1-3, 2012 about their handwashing habits in public restrooms. Participants were from around the country, ranged in age from 18 to 65 and older, and were fairly evenly split between men (49 percent) and women (51 percent).