It’s cold and flu season, which means offices and workplaces across America will fill with a symphony of coughs, sneezes and nose blows. While these noises can be distracting and lead to the spread of viruses and bacteria, they can also be downright gross.

To identify which behavior Americans cite as the “grossest,” Cintas Corporation facilitated a survey conducted online by Harris from Oct. 23-27, 2014 among 2,011 adults ages 18 and older. The study found that of the 81 percent of Americans who have witnessed a gross workplace habit, the majority concluded that the act of wiping a runny nose on one’s hands or sleeve is the grossest.

“While workplaces are full of poor hygiene habits, their frequency tends to increase around cold and flu season,” said Dave Mesko, Senior Director of Marketing, Cintas Corporation. “To reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria, businesses need to increase cleaning frequencies and encourage employees to practice proper hand-hygiene to keep them from getting sick in the first place.”

The top five “grossest” cold and flu behaviors include:

Wiping runny nose on hands or sleeve            16%
Not covering mouth/nose when sneezing       15%
Not covering mouth when coughing                12%
Not washing hands frequently                    9%
Leaving dirty tissues on desk                   8%

Survey respondents also cited a hacking cough, touching common-area surfaces while sick, persistent sniffling without blowing and nose blowing in general as other gross cold and flu hygiene-related behaviors.

While respondents were also given the opportunity to submit “other” gross behaviors, most of them focused on a lack of basic hand-hygiene. A few of the other highlights include: “blowing nose into the sink,” “spitting in trash can or sink,” and “the fact that they are there at all.”

To minimize one’s risk of getting sick this winter season, Cintas recommends the following hand-hygiene practices:

1. Always use soap when washing hands and be sure to scrub for a minimum of 15-30 seconds to effectively remove germs.

2. Use hand-sanitizer in addition to – not in place of – handwashing as sanitizers are not as effective as soap and water at removing germs and bacteria.

3. Always dry hands after washing as germs and bacteria can be more easily transferred to and from wet hands

4. Dry hands with paper towels instead of air dryers to help remove germs and bacteria as air dryers can increase bacteria counts.

“Although hand-hygiene is an important step in preventing the spread of infections and bacteria, facilities also need to plan for additional cleaning and disinfection during cold and flu season,” added Mesko. “Make sure your facility is ready with the proper cleaning tools, cleaning chemicals and techniques to ensure a healthy workplace.”