Washing hands with soap under the faucet with water

A recent study revealed that the average person washes their hands incorrectly 97 percent of the time. CNN reported on the study from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which revealed that most consumers don’t wash their hands and rub with soap for the 20 seconds recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It is widely known that poor handwashing habits can result in cross-contamination. According to the study, which was conducted using kitchen workers, germs were transmitted from poorly-washed hands onto food prep containers as much as half the time, and onto refrigerator handles 11 percent of the time.

The research also shows that handwashing habits may actually be going from bad to worse. A  2013 Michigan State University study found that only 5 percent of people washed their hands correctly.

These findings are not surprising considering there are various factors that go into proper handwashing. According to a study from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the soap volume, water temperature, lather time and the handwashing efficacy of the soap as formulated on the product are all factors to take into account when determining proper hand hygiene.

Equally important are the steps to cleaning hands properly. Here is what the CDC outlines for proper handwashing:
 • Wet hands with clean, running water
 • Turn off the tap and apply soap
 • Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails.
 • Scrub for at least 20 seconds
 • Rinse hands well under clean, running water
 • Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry them (“numerous” subjects in the USDA study failed this step)

In fact, yet another study found that 49 of 100 towels tested showed growth of bacteria normally found in or on the human body. That included E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. The bacteria were more likely to be found on wet towels and towels used for more than one purpose.

Custodial professionals can play an important role in hand hygiene by working with building occupants to clean hands properly and implement hygiene programs designed to promote the importance of handwashing. Many of these programs provide resources to start, supplement, support, and promote handwashing initiatives.