September 28, 2022

Most Consumers Don’t Wash Their Hands Correctly

A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health found that only 5% of consumers wash their hands correctly. Scientists trained 12 college students in the field of data collection. They then observed 3,749 people washing their hands in public toilets.

The observers found that 15% of the men and 7% of women didn’t wash their hands at all. Only 50% of men and 78% of women used soap. People were less likely to wash their hands if the sink looked dirty, and more likely if a sign telling people that hand washing is a good idea was hanging above the sink. And for some reason, more people wash their hands during the day than at night.

Hand Washing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that hand washing is crucial to avoid spreading foodborne illness and other infections. If some of those people observed in this study were waiters or food preparers, they could have spread Hepatitis A, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, or Campylobacter to patrons.

To wash hands correctly, get them wet under warm water, then scrub them together with lots of soap, ¬†for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to clean dirt from under your fingernails and wash wrists, palms, and backs of your hands. To keep track of the time you spend scrubbing your hands, one ¬†recommendation is to sing the song “Happy Birthday to You” twice.

Always wash your hands before preparing or eating food and after going to the bathroom or changing diapers. If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizers are the next best thing. Make sure to use the recommended amount of sanitizer and rub your hands together until hands are dry. But remember that hand sanitizers aren’t as effective when there is visible dirt on your hands.


  1. Another suggestion, is for people to turn off the water faucet in a public restroom, with a paper towel. And open the door using a paper towel on their way out. Faucets and door handles are very dirty, and will contaminate clean hands. I carry a few paper towels and tissues from home, along with a small bottle of liquid soap. There is no excuse for people not properly washing their hands with soap and water. That is just plain laziness, and can lead to illness for themselves, and other people around them. I don’t like anyone handling my food, except me. I don’t know where their hands may have been, since they last washed them.

    • Linda Larsen says

      Excellent suggestions. I remember my mother opening restroom doors with a paper towel decades ahead; she was ahead of her time.

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