The Disturbing Number of Americans Who Don't Wash Their Hands Properly Will Gross You Out

Years ago there was an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show where they had hidden cameras in the ladies room, pointed directly at the sinks. The cameras focused on hand washing after using the restroom. Let's just say that it was not a pretty sight. The overwhelming majority of people did not wash their hands for long enough, use enough soap, dry their hands properly or cover their full hands with soap and water. And yes, there were a few who did not wash at all.

According to a study out of Michigan State University, only a small percentage of people wash their hands properly. Oprah could have told you that a while ago, but this news makes it somewhat more official.

Researchers watched public restrooms, determining that a mere 5% of people washed their hands long enough and thoroughly enough to kill potentially infection-causing germs and bacteria.

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Are you grossed out yet? If not, just wait.

Researchers watched over 3,700 people using public restrooms. Of those, 1 in 3 did not use soap at all during hand washing, and 1 in 10 did not wash at all. Overall, the average time taken to wash hands was a mere 6 seconds.

I bet now you are sufficiently grossed out.

Have you ever gone into a restroom and thought that sign on the wall reminding you to wash your hands was unnecessary? Well, apparently not. The study showed that people were more likely to wash their hands if a sign encouraging them to do so was present.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, proper hand washing can not only cut down on one's risk of getting colds, flu and viruses, but it can also prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. Here is the recommended way to properly wash your hands:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water.
  2. Apply soap generously.
  3. Rub your hands together to make a lather
  4. Scrub your hands well for 20 seconds. Scrub not only the palms but the fingertips, the backs of hands between the fingers and under the fingernails.
  5. Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
  6. Dry hands a clean towel or with an air dryer.

As for those alcohol-based hand sanitizers, the CDC recommends using them only when soap is unavailable or after proper hand washing.

Here's to basic hygiene! May your next trip to a public restroom be a much cleaner one.

-By Jessica Cohen

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