Do you wash your hands after using the bathroom? Are you lying to me?!

i-584310b9f653f3f8b3a3d8a5e8a30863-bathroom.jpgI think you are. It seems that many fewer people are washing their hands after using the toilet than only a couple years ago. Not only that... people lie about it. Yes you reader - I'm calling you out! I'll bet you don't wash your grimy little hands.

Here's some of the details about this very clearly influential and well done study:

In an observational study sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), slightly over three-quarters of men and women (77%) washed their hands in public restrooms - a six percent decline from a similar study conducted in 2005.

Yet in a separate telephone survey, 92% of adults say they wash their hands in public restrooms.

And yes men are grosser than women ;)

The observational research suggests that women still are much better at publicly washing their hands than their male counterparts: 88 percent of the women compared to just 66 percent of the guys. Compared to 2005, that's a two percent drop-off for the ladies. Men really slacked off - 75 percent were observed washing their hands two years ago.

Ok.. so I have a comment about the men and women thing. Women have to do a lot more touching of everything in the bathroom and spend many many minutes more in a bathroom than men. Men on the other hand don't really have to touch anything except themselves if they don't want to. So perhaps its not really that big of a deal?

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Please. I wash my hands BEFORE I touch my boys.

Wash my hands? I suppose some parents teach their kids to wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

Mine taught me not to urinate on my hands. :)

I first heard this story on the This Week in Science podcast this week and my thought was similar to yours: men touch far less things in the process than with women, especially if the urinal has autoflush. Plus, you have to wonder what effect the observer had on the study. Nothing would make me depart without washing faster than knowing there was someone standing their just watching guys pee. Women probably expect that the observer is waiting on a friend still in a stall.

Based on purely informal observations whilst using the (men's) facilities at far too many Irish and British pubs:

(1) Less than 50% wash their hands afterwards;

(2) If one guy does wash his hands, some of the others who saw him do it will as well; and

(3) Some guys--and this may be the effects of the drinking--have very poor aim and the urine splashes everywhere.

Plus, albeit I haven't seen this for awhile now, a very small number of men bring their pints with them. Gaagggg....

I have another comment about the men vs women thing. True, women are probably touching more common stuff such as the toilet paper, the stall door, and the flusher (although we also have auto-flush in most of our bathrooms). But...we don't ever touch "down there". We touch toilet paper which touches down there. Men are actually touching themselves and not washing, which I think is gross. Granted, I guess they do that all of the freaking time so maybe it's not that big of a deal.

Regardless, everyone should wash their hands in order to prevent spreading disease. I used to think "but I don't get pee on my hand so what's the point?" but little did I realize that we should basically always wash our hands a few times a day anyway to prevent spreading disease, and going to the bathroom just provides another opportunity to do so. It'd probably be just as effective (or more so?) to wash right before going as it is right after.

By Katherine (not verified) on 20 Sep 2007 #permalink

How much of a health hazard is it, anyways? Is there some epidemic I'm missing that is being caused by such lack of hand washing?

From news reports, it seems lettuce is much more of a hazard.

Of course, doctors and the like in hospitals really are in a high-germ environment (and by high-germ I refer to non-harmless pathogens, not just the everyday mix we are continuously exposed to) and do need to wash frequently.

I'm guessing washing ones hands after urinating isn't that significant compared to after you drop a deuce, which is more likely to carry pathogens and involves more cleanup.

In my years of working with an environmental enforcement agency sampling all sorts of effluents contaminated with biological and chemical nasties the biggest precaution was to was your hands BEFORE unzipping.

As an aside, even if you wash you've got to turn off the taps and work the door knob. Some folks have a weird sense of what counts as humor in setting up scatological booby traps. Maybe there's a market for disposable gloves in washrooms?

I'm guessing washing ones hands after urinating isn't that significant compared to after you drop a deuce, which is more likely to carry pathogens and involves more cleanup.

Sometimes it just takes too damn long, because I may be late for class. I rarely wash, but often becoming sick is one of the consequences.