Germ Alert: 95% Not Doing One Necessary Thing

WASH HANDSAre you concerned about the spread of germs?

Well, you should be, flu season or not.


Proper hand washing is one of the top preventative strategies to not get sick. But wait: You’re likely thinking you’re killing those germs and protecting yourself and others by doing so, but the odds are you’re not washing your hands properly, new research shows.

Prepare to be shocked! Only 5 percent of the population in the United States is washing away those germs with soap and hot water at the tap, while a staggering 95 percent is not.

But what seems to be the issue here? Sure, we may be using antibacterial soap and that, alone, is supposed to kill the majority of the germs right? Wrong. It all comes down to the time we are actually washing our hands that makes it effective.

RELATED READING: ‘Five Second Rule’ True After All

Put In The Time To Wash Your Hands

At Michigan State University, a group of environmental health experts explored the “phenomena” of hand washing. They set out to observe the hand washing methods of 3,749 random individuals in a Michigan town. The stakeouts included public bathrooms in bars (oh dear!), restaurants and various other public establishments.

Just more reason to fear the public restroom!

The researchers noted how long the individuals took to wash their hands and whether or not they used soap. Their results may leave you feeling disgusted (or guilty!).

When it came down to how long it took to wash away those germs, the average time spent under the tap was a mere six seconds, only three seconds longer than the average sneeze!

When it comes down to the numbers between the sexes, 15 percent of men did not wash their hands in comparison to only 7 percent of women. When it came to using soap for those who did wash their hands, only 50 percent of men did compared to 78 percent of women.

Interesting, the researchers found that people were more likely to use soap if there was a sign present about hand washing.

Grossed out yet? Let us offer you a little more insight.

The observations took place during all hours of the day: morning, noon and night at the same establishments. They concluded people were less likely to wash their hands if the sink was dirty (certainly a turn-off) and also, if people washed their hands more frequently during the day, they would do so less at night.

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Step By Step: Stop The Spread Of Germs

Turns out, washing our hands is crucial for the prevention of illness and disease. Americans and their habits don’t reflect the standards set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Based on the study conducted by Michigan State University researchers, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to ensure the soap is working and the germs are dying.

CDC hails hand washing as “a do-it-yourself-vaccine” and the most important step in preventing illness and spreading germs. The CDC has even gone so far as creating the exact guidelines to follow for proper hand washing.

Wash your hands at the following times:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage.

Proper hand washing technique involves five major steps: Wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry.

Wet: Use clean running water to wet your hands and apply soap.

Lather: Rub your hands together; ensuring the soap is covering both hands equally and thoroughly. Get everywhere from the back of your hands, to your nails, to in between your fingers.

Scrub: For at least 20 seconds. If you find it hard to count to 20, humming the “Happy Birthday” song is a surefire way to keep you scrubbing.

Rinse: Once again, put your hands under clean running water and take off all that soap.


Dry: Use either a dry towel, paper towel or a dryer.

With these simple tips, you can ensure you are not promoting the spread of germs. Good hygiene is your first defense against illness.