Mom's advice about cleaning your hands may finally be starting to get through. In the August 2010 observational study sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute® (formerly The Soap and Detergent Association), 85% of adults washed their hands in public restrooms, compared with 77% in 2007. The 85% total was actually the highest observed since these studies began in 1996.
In a separate telephone survey, 96% of adults say they always wash their hands in public restrooms, a percentage that has remained relatively constant over the years.
Guys Washing Better - But Don't Take Them Out to the Ballgame
Men stepped up to the sink a bit more than they have in the past when it comes to public handwashing. More than three-quarters of the guys (77%) washed their hands publicly in 2010, compared to 66% in 2007.
The guys still strike out more on handwashing in sporting venues, though. Atlanta's Turner Field stadium fielded the worst percentage for men - barely two-thirds (65%) - though that's still better than just 57% in 2007. Perhaps as a counter to the men's poor handwashing practices, Turner Field brought out the best in women's handwashing among all venues: 98%.
Overall, the rate of women washing their hands in public restrooms improved from 88% in 2007 to 93% in 2010.
First-Place Tie Between Windy City, City by the Bay
The best observed handwashing in 2010 was in Chicago and San Francisco, with 89% of adults lathering up in public restrooms. Atlanta was next (82%), followed by New York City (79%). The venue with the best overall handwashing regimen was Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry (93%).
More of Us Are Getting Behind Handwashing After Changing Diapers
In a 2010 telephone survey of 1,006 American adults, Harris Interactive's survey for ASM and ACI found the vast majority of us say we always wash our hands after using the bathroom at home (89%).
More Americans now report that they always wash their hands after changing a diaper (82%), an increase from 2007 (73%). Women are better than men at this practice: 88% of the ladies say they always wash their hands after diaper duty, compared to 80% of the guys.
Food for Thought
Those of us who say we always clean our hands before handling or eating food is staying about the same: 77% in 2010, compared to 78% in 2007. Among women, 83% say they clean their hands before touching their food; just 71% of men say they do.
And only 39% of Americans say they always wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.
2010 Handwashing Resources
Get a Grip Handwashing Brochure ( .pdf)2010 Press Release ( .pdf )
Harris Interactive observed the behavior of 6,028 adults who appeared to be age 18 and older in public restrooms located at major public attractions in the U.S. and recorded whether or not they washed their hands after using the facilities. The research was conducted in four cities and at six different locations:
Observers discreetly watched and recorded whether or not adults using public restrooms washed their hands. Observers were instructed to groom themselves (comb their hair, put on make-up, etc.) while observing and to rotate bathrooms every hour or so to avoid counting repeat users more than once. Observers were also instructed to wash their hands no more than 10% of the time.
The data from the telephone survey are based on a nationally representative sample, stratified by census region and weighted by gender, education and ethnicity composure to represent the U.S. population. The 1,006 telephone interviews were conducted between August 4-8, 2010.