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DebMed Blog: Healthcare Hygiene Matters

Mind boggling facts: Why do some men avoid handwashing?

Posted by Brittany Taylor on Jun 7, 2018 9:30:00 AM
Brittany Taylor
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Brace yourself. A study from Michigan State University reported that only 5.3 percent of men wash their hands for the CDC-recommended 15 seconds or more after using the restroom. Even worse, many neglect to wash their hands at all. In a 2005 study by the American Society for Microbiology, it was observed that only 75% of men washed their hands after using the restroom compared to 90% of women.

 Public Restroom Practices

Some men attribute this foul phenomenon to a fear of germs. Others who decline to wash their hands after finishing  their “business” claim that they are just trying to avoid nasty surfaces on their way out of the bathroom. Others say they know what they’ve touched throughout the day and are confident that their hands are clean enough.


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said again and again that handwashing is the best way to protect against germs.[1] The CDC even outlines when people should wash their hands, stressing that proper handwashing after using the toilet, or touching any surfaces in a restroom, is crucial.

 Deborah Handwashing 3D

When certain men skip the soap and go directly to the door, they might not know just how many germs are lurking in public restrooms. One study in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that, on average, there are approximately 500,000 bacterial cells per square inch on bathroom surfaces[2]. Another study that sampled several surfaces in public restrooms reported that a multitude of human-related bacteria, including several associated with the gut, mouth, skin and urine, were observed on all restroom surfaces, not just sinks and door handles[3]. Even if men try to avoid restroom germs by bypassing the sink area, there are opportunities to come into contact with bacteria in nearly every inch of a restroom. 


Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that this practice of terrible hand hygiene contributes to the spread of unnecessary germs. One pair of unwashed hands can spread countless germs from restrooms onto other surfaces where anyone might come in contact with them. In a hospital environment, this can be a disaster! Just think about it, 15 seconds of soap and water is all it takes to protect yourself, not to mention other  people. That doesn’t seem so hard.


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[1] https://www.cdc.gov/features/handwashing/index.html

[2] http://aem.asm.org/content/early/2014/11/10/AEM.03117-14.full.pdf+html

[3] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0028132


Topics: handwashing

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The DebMed blog is the go-to source for hand hygiene and infection prevention related discussions occurring in the healthcare industry. Join the conversation! All readers are invited to comment, share stories and information, and post articles of interest.

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