Only 5 Percent of Us Are Washing Our Hands Well Enough to Kill Germs
If you're already a germaphobe, I recommend you back aawwwaaay from this story, because it might just be too much to handle. But if you're not a germaphobe, this news may be enough to make you one. A recent study of more than 3,700 restroom patrons done by Michigan State University researchers drudged up some horrifying facts about our handwashing habits.
Apparently, only 5 percent of people who used the restroom scrubbed their hands long enough to kill infection-causing germs. Guuugh, how embarrassing! And wait, as if that wasn't enough, it gets WORSE!
33 percent didn't use soap, and 10 percent didn't wash their hands at all. Men were less likely than women to clean their hands, but when they did, only 50 percent used soap (compared to 78 percent of women)! Ugh, I believe it! You don't even want to know the horror stories my brother-in-law, who works in a mall, has told me about what he's witnessed in the public men's bathrooms there. In public men's bathrooms in RESTAURANTS there. Ew, ew, ewww!
Some more interesting but repulsive factoids: If the sink was dirty, it actually turned people OFF of washing their hands. (Wouldn't you feel more inclined to get in there and get clean if you'd just used a nasty restroom? Guess not! And people were more likely to wash their hands earlier in the day. (Because at night, maybe they were ...drunk and lazy? Ha.) And as it turns out, signs encouraging handwashing work -- making people more inclined to do so.
Granted, this was entirely observed in public restrooms in a college town, so these stats may not be representative of the general population. Especially considering that previous research actually shows most people are, well, better at washing their hands properly ... But still, given that negligent handwashing is the culprit behind nearly 50 percent of all foodborne illness outbreaks according to the CDC, this study is troubling to say the least.
So, in case you needed a refresher course ... or just wanted to be sure you were doing it right: The study notes that you have to vigorously wash with SOAP and water for 15 to 20 seconds to effectively kill germs. 6 seconds (the average) isn't sufficient. But geeze, after reading this study, you'd have to wonder if doing anything beats nothing at all. Shudder.
Be honest: Do you wash your hands properly?