Washing of hands with soap under running water

Bradley Corporation has released the results of its 11th annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey, information used to track American’s hand washing habits and their reactions to germs, the flu and colds. 

The annual survey queried American adults and youth online Dec. 11-16, 2019. Participants were from around the country, were 14 years and older

Even before COVID-19 hit the United States, 60% of Americans were extremely or quite concerned about catching the flu, compared to just 32% who felt that way four years ago, the survey shows. Among all age groups, Millennials expressed the most trepidation about getting sick.  

The survey also shows:

- 50% of Americans said news coverage of cold and flu outbreaks has an impact on their hand washing behavior.

- In response to flu outbreaks, 79% of Americans said they wash their hands more frequently, more thoroughly or longer after using a public restroom.

- 89% of Americans in the workforce said they consciously take steps to avoid the germs of sick co-workers or colleagues.

- 64% of Americans correctly believe that hand washing is more effective in removing germs than hand sanitizer – a fact supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

- When asked where they were MOST concerned about somebody not washing their hands, 40% said restaurants, 35% identified hospitals, clinics and doctors’ or dentists’ offices, 15% answered schools and 8% said airports.

- When they are sick, 54% of Americans said they simply wave hello to greet people, 48% avoid shaking hands and 18% use a fist or elbow bump. 

- At home, if someone is sick or if a cold or flu virus is going around, Americans kick into action. 65% wipe down bathroom and kitchen surfaces. 47% wipe door knobs and handles. 46% wash sheets and/or towels.

- In a public restroom, 93% of Americans try to avoid coming in contact with germs by employing evasive measures. 65% use a paper towel when touching door handles, faucets or toilet flushers, 44% operate the toilet flusher with their foot, 42% use a seat liner or cover, 29% hover above the toilet seat, 29% use their butt to open and close doors and 27% use their elbow to operate towel dispensers.

- 97% of Americans believe it’s important to wash up after using a public restroom. However, hand washing doesn’t happen all the time. Respondents said they washed their hands 86% of the time after using a public restroom. 

- 67% of Americans admit they’ve skipped the soap and simply rinsed their hands with water after using a public restroom.

Soap vs Hand Sanitizer Chart

“Thorough hand washing with soap and water remains the best way to reduce the spread of disease-causing microorganisms like COVID-19,” says medical microbiologist Michael P. McCann, Ph.D., professor of biology, Saint Joseph's University. “Soap and water, used as per the evidence-based recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and other government agencies, will help reduce the spread of flu and other illnesses in the home and work place.”