“Wash your hands!” Mom always taught us to wash our hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Now, there’s even more reason to take that adage to heart.
A new study from Michigan State University researchers found that after using the restroom, only 5 percent of people washed their hands long enough to kill the germs that cause infections. In addition, 33 percent didn’t use soap and 10 percent didn’t wash their hands at all. Yikes! Men, in particular, were more likely to wash their hands incorrectly.
The study was based on observations of nearly 4,000 people in public restrooms, and even researchers were shocked at the results.
“These findings were surprising to us because past research suggested that proper hand washing is occurring at a much higher rate,” said Carl Borchgrevink, associate professor of hospitality business and lead investigator on the study, in a statement.
Washing your hands with soap is the single most effective way to stop the spread of infectious disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even more, 50 percent of food-borne illness is caused by improper hand washing. Hand washing saves lives!
It takes 20 seconds of hand washing to properly kill germs, yet in this study the average person washed for just 6 seconds. The study also found that 15 percent of men didn’t wash their hands at all, compared to 7 percent of women; when they did wash their hands only 50 percent of men used soap, compared to 78 percent of women; and people were less likely to wash their hands if the sink was dirty.
So what’s the proper way to wash your hands? The CDC advises to wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds (Sing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself twice). Rinse your hands well under running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
If no soap and water is available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Although this study only focused on hand washing after using the restroom, to prevent the spread of disease it’s important to wash your hands frequently throughout the day. Times to wash include: before, during and after food preparation; before eating; before and after caring for someone who is sick; before and after treating a wound; after changing diapers or helping a child with the toilet; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; after touching an animal or animal waste; after touching pet food; after touching the garbage.
Remember to teach little ones the importance of hand washing and how to do it right to keep them healthy and help stop the spread of illness.