2009 Healthy Handwashing Survey
From July 28-31, 2009 we surveyed 1,020 American adults about their hand washing habits in public restrooms. Participants were from around the country, evenly divided among men and women, and ranged in age from 18 to 65 and older. One of the most surprising results of the survey showed that people hadn´t changed their hand washing habits in response to the H1N1 virus (Swine Flu).
Fully 54% of the 1,020 respondents "wash their hands no more or less frequently" in a public restroom as a result of the H1N1 virus.
"Influenza A viruses, of which swine flu is one, are fragile viruses that can be easily destroyed through proper hygiene, including use of soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizers, Flu viruses most frequently enter the body when contaminated hands touch mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, and mouth. Frequent hand hygiene certainly makes this transfer less likely."
- Dr. Judy Daly
Spokesperson for the American Society of Microbiology
Director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratories, Primary Children´s Medical Center, Salt Lake City.
Self-reported Hand Washing Habits
In our survey:
87% of people said they washed their hands after using public lavatories
86% of people said also used soap
55% of the group admitted on occasion they´ve simply rinsed, without using soap.
Hand Washing Habits from Observational Studies
Only 77% actually wash their hands after using a public restroom
- 2007 study by researchers for the American Society of Microbiology.
75% of women and just 51% of men washed their hands with soap and water after using the public restroom at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds
- Observations by the Minnesota Department of Health in 2003 and 2004,
"We found the response to the H1N1 question extremely surprising, especially since the medical community has said over and over that hand washing is the best defense against the spread of cold and flu viruses,"
- Jon Dommisse
Director of Marketing and Product Development
Excuses for Not Washing
When asked why they didn´t was their hands, people tended to place the blame on the restroom itself. These were the most common answers:
- The sinks weren´t working
- The wash area appeared unclean
- The sink area was crowded and they didn´t feel the need to wash
- 28% said they used a hand sanitizer instead
The most common reason for not using soap was an empty dispenser
"Hand washing is a simple thing to do and it´s the best way to prevent infection and illness,"
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
"Washing your hands" is still best done with soap and water according to CDC. (Here are some tips from the hand washing experts). They´re unequivocal about the benefits of hand washing, calling it critical in preventing infection and illness:
Children´s Hand Washing Habits
Parents believe their children wash their hands with soap and water about 68% of the time after using a restroom at school.
The CDC estimates that at least 22 million school days are lost every year due to the common cold, making hand washing among school-age children especially important. Illness can spread from student to student throughout the school so it´s important that students wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating and after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose. In public restrooms parents helping their children were especially frustrated by:
- empty or jammed towel dispensers
- having no space to put belongings
- water collecting on sink counters
- sinks and soap dispensers that were too high for children to reach.
"Hand washing is a lifetime health practice that children should know about, understand the benefits of and take with them into adulthood,"
- Jon Dommisse
Restroom Likes and Dislikes
People´s preference in public restrooms is not terribly surprising
- Being well-maintained
- Not too crowded
- Poorly maintained
- Not well stocked
Public Restroom Preferences
- 45% of people prefer restrooms in casual dining restaurants
- 15% preferred restrooms in retail stores
- 13% preferred airport restrooms
- <10% of people preferred restrooms in movie theaters, fast-food restaurants or grocery stores
- 1% of people preferred parks, sports arenas or zoos
- Gas stations and convenience stores were preferred least of all restrooms