How many people actually wash their hands properly?
SUMMARY: Only 5 percent of people actually wash their hands for the proper amount of time with soap and water, according to a new study.
Posted: June 12, 2013
Do you wash your hands thoroughly enough after using the washroom? Chances are - you don't! According to researchers from Michigan State University (MSU), a mere 5 percent of people scrub their hands properly after going to the bathroom. To make matters worse, 10 percent of people skipped out on rinsing altogether. Think of the things you touch after going to the bathroom: Your keyboard, water bottle, pens, food, lips, face, etc. Without even noticing, you may be touching your lips or teeth with bacteria still on your hands. Not getting rid of the germs on your hands can lead to illness, halitosis and more.
Remember to wash your hands
The study, published in The Journal of Environmental Health, witnessed 3,749 people use public washrooms in the Michigan town where the university is located, East Lansing. According to the standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you must use soap and water and rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Only 5.3 percent of people who were included in the study washed their hands for longer than 15 seconds, but not everyone used soap.
In 2009, 94 percent of adults in the U.S. claimed that they spent a proper amount of time rinsing and scrubbing their hands in the bathroom. In 2010, 96 percent of adults said they always scrubbed their hands while in a public restroom. However, these self-reported behaviors seem to be lacking in truth when compared with the observations of researchers at MSU. Nearly 15 percent of men did not wash their hands at all, and 7.1 percent of women didn't complete this task.
While it's possible that discreet observers could have played a role in a person's hand-washing practice, it's likely that this would have encouraged longer washing times. Researchers also noted that people were more likely to wash their hands if the sink was clean, there was a motion-detecting faucet or a sign encouraging patrons to rinse up.
"Forty-eight million people a year get sick from contaminated food," lead author Carl P. Borchgrevink, an associate professor at Michigan State University, told The New York Times. "And the CDC says 50 percent would not have gotten sick if people had washed their hands properly. Do as your mom said: Wash your hands."
Keeping everything clean
While there is no direct link between washing your hands and causes of halitosis, it's probably best to stay safe. Make sure that you are spending enough time rinsing off your hands each time you go to the washroom, because bacteria quickly spread to things like your handbag or keyboard, both of which have been a subject of research in the past. For instance, a British company, Initial Washroom Hygiene, reported that one in five handbags contain a harmful amount of bacteria that could actually pose health risks to humans.
Kids and washing hands
Parents should set good examples for children by always washing their hands in front of them and encouraging kids to rinse regularly. Oral health for kids is especially important because they will likely carry practices with them as they get older, and that includes washing hands before eating or playing with toys.
Children are prone to putting their fingers in their mouth or chewing on toys, which can become very germ-ridden if they do not begin practicing proper hand washing techniques. Kids who suck on their thumbs may affect their oral health by welcoming in more bacteria that cause tooth decay, bad breath and more.