Handwashing illustration. Water, washing hands, cleaning. Hygiene concept. Vector illustration can be used for healthcare, skincare, hygiene

Contributed by the American Cleaning Institute

Handwashing outranks other pandemic-related countermeasures — such as wearing masks and social distancing — that Americans indicate they’ll continue in the next months, an American Cleaning Institute (ACI) survey finds. In fact, 93 percent of respondents are more likely to continue their pandemic hand-hygiene habits than the other referenced health measures.

The research, which was conducted by Ipsos for ACI in March 2020 and again in September 2021, tracked changes in consumer cleaning behaviors amid the ongoing pandemic in the U.S. The results coincide with the annual commemoration of Global Handwashing Day (October 15), which is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

Additional findings from the ACI survey show a 19-percentage point decline in frequent handwashing since the start of the pandemic. Fewer people now also say they are more mindful about washing their hands for 20 seconds, compared to March 2020.

Although respondents are likely to continue pandemic hand-hygiene practices, the survey indicates they are not washing as frequently or for as long when they do wash. As Americans prepare for a potentially severe cold and flu season, due to an underexposed population last year combined with less COVID-19 restrictions this year, this decline in handwashing can put people at risk.

“Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is one of the most simple and effective measures to take in the fight against COVID-19 and other easily transmittable diseases,” says Melissa Hockstad, ACI president and CEO. “As we gear up for the coming cold and flu season, we hope to equip everyone with the knowledge and tools they need to practice proper handwashing.”

Important handwashing tips include:

• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.

• Take note of the following key times to wash your hands:

• Before, during and after preparing food

• Before and after caring for someone who is sick

• After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing

• After handling garbage

• After directly handling dirty laundry

• If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer as an alternative. For use against COVID-19, look for an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

Additional research findings

• Most Americans are still washing their hands and using hand sanitizer more frequently now than they did prior to COVID-19. Almost three out of five of Americans reported that they are washing their hands (59 percent) or using hand sanitizer (56 percent) more frequently.

• Nine in 10 Americans still report some type of change in their handwashing habits since the pandemic started.

• 83 percent of Americans plan to continue using hand sanitizer.

For more on last week's Global Handwashing Day, click here