62% of men and 40% of women don't wash their hands! Hand Washing and the Fear of the Faucet

Don’t Fear the Faucet, Sir

In public bathrooms around the world today, men and boys everywhere will finish up their business, zip up, and stroll right back out into the world – without even glancing at the sink on their way out.  Gross.

You might say, “Not my man – he knows better.”  And I hope you’re right.

But, as a man in the world, I see this all the time.  I haven’t exactly kept count, but if I had to make an educated guess based on my own personal experience, I would guess that 50% of the men in public restrooms don’t wash their hands on the way out.

I’ve seen this in the workplace, in restaurants and stores, in airports and stadiums… you name it.

And They Admit It

So I did some quick research and I found that, unfortunately, my hunch was correct – roughly half of the people on earth can’t be bothered to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

Initial Hygiene, a UK company, published a survey in February 2015 of 100,000 Europeans, and they found that 62% of men, and 40% of women, regularly don’t wash their hands after using a public bathroom.  So I guess it’s not only men who are doing this.

An American company, the Bradley Corporation, published a similar survey in October 2015, without drawing a line between genders.  They found that 92% of respondents believe it’s important to wash their hands after using a public restroom, but that only 66% say they always do it.  And a full 70% admitted that they regularly don’t use soap.

It gets even worse.  In 2013, a team from Michigan State University published a report in the Journal of Environmental Health, in which they studied 3,749 people in public restrooms.  They found that only 5% of the people in their sample washed their hands long enough to destroy infectious germs with soap – 15 to 20 seconds.

Make your own simple non-toxic cleaners: Easy and Natural Home Cleaning

Why Not Wash?

Why wouldn’t you wash your hands?

Are people really too busy to stop and wash?  I don’t think so.  If you have time to pee, you have time to wash and rinse, right?  It takes less than 30 seconds.

Is there some stigma about washing your hands that I don’t know about?  Does stopping to wash your hands mean that you’re admitting to having dirty hands?  I don’t get it.

I think the real answer is that the average guy generally doesn’t think about the consequences.  He looks at his hands and they don’t look dirty, so he blows it off – “it’ll be fine.”

Hand Washing and Disease

But in reality, at the moment this man is looking at his hands, there are literally trillions of bacteria right there in front of his eyes.  Some of these are the normal, healthy organisms that have been on his skin all along.

But some are random, strange, bathroom bacteria that this person has never come in contact with before.  And now they’re on the skin of his hands – the most likely spot to touch his eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and… well, all of his other openings too.  The skin of his hand is also where germs are most likely to be passed to other people – whether family or stranger.

And it’s not just about bacteria.  This is a great way for a virus to spread too.  A microbiologist named Charles Gerba published a study in 2014 where he used a harmless “tracer” virus to demonstrate that a virus placed on a strategically located door handle can spread throughout a typical office space within 2 to 4 hours.

If there were ever a time to wash your hands, this is it!

Read more about the organisms that live inside and on your body: Microbes 2.0 – A Tiny Manifesto

Scaring People Straight

Research has found that posting signs about the importance of hand washing does actually make a difference in how frequently people stop to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

That company I mentioned above, Initial Hygiene, offers a product that uses sensors to count the number of people who use the bathroom against the number of people who wash their hands.  It keeps a running tab, and displays the results publicly on the bathroom wall.  So on the way out, you see the percentage of people that have washed their hands after using the bathroom.  They claim that this increases hand washing by 50%.

One simple change that I think would help is scarier signs.  Instead of a cute sketch of two hands under a faucet…  How about a nasty microscopic image of a virus, alongside a picture of a sick person?  I think that might stop the average guy in the example above, so instead of saying, “it’ll be fine,” he says, “well, better safe than sorry.”

hand-washing-sign

Don’t Go Overboard – Soap is Sufficient

Please don’t get all freaked out and start spraying antibacterial products everywhere.

Soap is a great tool for this job.  Just wash your hands with soap.  While it can kill some bacteria and viruses, what it’s really good at is removing them from your skin.

If you need to use a hand sanitizer, there are some that have water as their base and use herbal compounds as their active ingredients – those seem like the mildest solution.

Avoid products that contain synthetic antimicrobial compounds like Triclosan.  Even though these may make you feel better today, you are helping to create stronger and stronger germs for tomorrow – each time you use an antimicrobial like this.  The problem of antimicrobial resistance used to be science fiction, but today it has become a very real problem in the world.  Yes, today.  But that’s another topic for another post.

Clean your hands without synthetic chemicals: How to Make a Natural Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer

A Closing Plea

A plea to building designers and automation engineers…

There are some of us who try, every time, to leave the bathroom with as few germs as possible in tow on our skin and clothing.  We are the people who use the paper “toilet seat condoms.”  We try not to touch dirty surfaces, and we wash our hands every time.

We’ve watched with wonder over the past few decades as you all have automated urinals, toilets, water faucets, paper towel dispensers, and even soap dispensers!  Bravo!  We hardly have to touch anything anymore, if we don’t want to.

But still, at the end of every public bathroom experience is the single worst part… the doorknob.

No matter how well you wash, and no matter how futuristic the whole bathroom is, the last thing we do on our way out is grab the dirtiest object in the place – the same thing that the other 70% of people who didn’t even wash their hands grabbed on their way out.

It’s the doorknob you should automate!  Automate the bathroom door!

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Sources:

1: Do YOU always wash your hands after going to the loo? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2971931/Do-wash-hands-going-loo-62-men-40-women-admit-don-t-bother.html
2: Global Handwashing Day Focuses on Need for Universal Hand Hygiene. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-handwashing-day-focuses-on-need-for-universal-hand-hygiene-300159521.html
3: Only 5% Wash Their Hands Properly After Going To The Toilet. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261875.php
4: How quickly viruses can contaminate buildings and how to stop them. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-09/asfm-hqv090214.php
5: Hygiene Connect. http://www.initial.co.uk/hygiene-connect/
6: Hand Hygiene: Why, How & When? http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/Hand_Hygiene_Why_How_and_When_Brochure.pdf

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Michael Ford


Contributor

Michael has been the resident editor at The [Grow] Network since January 2015. Michael grew up in St. Louis, where he became a lover of nature - hiking and fishing his way through the Ozark hills in Missouri. He attended Baylor University in Waco, TX, and he currently lives in Austin. Michael has background experience in small-scale farming, commercial growing, vegetable gardening, landscaping, marketing, and software development. He received his Permaculture Design Certification from the Austin Permaculture Guild in 2013.


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106 Comments
  • david edwars

    I consider this absurd. I go to the loo and pee, I have touched the cleanest part of and expelled some slightly yellow colored sterile saline liquid. If I were to be concerned about disease, it would be airborne which hand washing doesn’t do much, also there is the door knob that everybody has touched. Washing should be done outside the loo. This fear mongering is way too much.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Hi David – Thanks for chiming in. I also learned in school that urine was sterile. But it turns out that’s not true – our urine and our urinary tracts are full of bacteria & other microbes – just like the rest of our bodies… http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/40092/title/Parsing-the-Penis-Microbiome/

      • Rosi Madison

        Hi Michael, don’t bother explaining this to people like david on the top there. Some people were born pig and will always be pigs. We know it’s not just about catching a disease , it’s about basic hygiene, but unfortunately if we sadly have to shake one of these pig’s hands just to be polite, we have to rush to the faucet and wash our hands again. Anyway, thanks a lot for trying to educate people. Hopefully, some of them will be smart enough to understand and respect others.

    • Genera

      And if she stayed out of mens wash rooms she would not see all these terrible things, right?

    • Dave

      Yes, David, It’s the DOORKNOB, or DOORPLATE. Some businesses have fixed this by designing restrooms without doors. You walk around a corner. They have also removed the levers or buttons from the urinals. Yes, I’m sure you KNOW you are 100% safe from your own germs. But it’s one of the 50+ people before you. If there is paper towel available, I will walk toward the door with used towel, open door with towel and exit. No towel, I wait til someone else enters or exits. Sometimes there are 2 of us waiting. It’s a habit your parents didn’t teach you.

    • Sandy

      Boys, we all know that the pee bone is connected very closely to the butt bone, and that the portion generally dealt with bare-handed is generally located lower down. Gravity as well as the action of walking being what it is, no amount of fancy underwear is going to make up for even the most pristine butt bone technique. Women, who have far less protection from infection than men can attest to the effects of gravity and walking. I have had co-workers tell me they never visited the company restroom, and waited until they got home to relieve themselves. This is terribly hard on kidneys and whatever other organs have to hold the line. I wash, avoid touching any other surfaces on the way in or out, and use my elbows for swinging doors and latches. As well as wiping up any surfaces that I must touch with my hands before and after.

  • Michael,
    You are so right, I have noticed it also.
    People need to stop and think, like in a grocery store, people who haven’t washed
    their hands, go through the store handling produce and other items.
    Perhaps with some of them, they don’t want to touch anything in the restroom if they can avoid it.
    Very good article.

  • There may be a couple of ways to look at this…. not that I’m denying the importance of washing.
    First of all, many public toilets do not have doors or anything else to touch on the way in – or out.
    My hand is only touching ME. If I do touch anything on the way in, it would make much more sense to wash my hands BEFORE I pee.
    If there is an exit door, is that clean?
    IF a man’s hands are fairly bacteria/virus free before he pees, and then washes them before leaving, does that mean he has venereal disease?
    A retired healthy dentist….

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Haha – Hi Don – I certainly hope you don’t have venereal disease, but I’ll leave that to your doctor! Looks like lots of other people share your thoughts about washing before instead of after.

  • Hand washing is a joke; and the stats you shared are probably on the conservative side! Yet, hand washing is NOT the solution to preventing the spread of germs in our environment. As a matter of fact, with last years Ebola crises, most health agencies including the CDC, had recommended ‘hand-washing’ as the most powerful method to prevent contamination and infection. Hand washing to prevent Ebola? Really?

    Never mind the FACT that the Ebola virus can also become airborne, and that it does in FACT leave protein residues of the virus on some surfaces for up to a few hours! We can NOT protect ourselves from germs, pathogens, etc. They exist everywhere, within and on our bodies. The only true workable solution, is to dramatically improve our immune systems. Even Louis Pasteur, the considered, ‘Father’ of our current Germ Theory, stated this fact from his death bed; it’s not the Germ, it’s the environment”!

    Healthy people with healthy immune systems are NOT affected by germs and other even deadly pathogens, super bugs, etc. Only sick people, people with compromised immune systems can be infected by these types of opportunistic predators. Don’t bother washing you hands; just build up your immune system instead!

    And, God help you if you are either visiting a Hospital or a patient there….

    “Hospitals are typically thought of as places where lives are saved, but statistics show they’re actually one of the most dangerous places you could possibly frequent.

    Each day, more than 40,000 harmful and/or lethal medical errors occur, placing the patient in a worse situation than what they came in with.

    According to a 2013 study, preventable medical errors kill around 440,000 patients each year—that’s more than 10 times the number of deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes! Hospitals have become particularly notorious for spreading lethal infections.

    According to 2014 statistics6, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 25 patients end up with a hospital-acquired infection. In 2011 alone, 75,000 people died as a result.

    Medicare patients may be at even greater risk. According to the 2011 Health Grades Hospital Quality in America Study, 1 in 9 Medicare patients developed a hospital-acquired infection”.

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/04/05/hospital-stay.aspx

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Yeah, I had a brief panic when I saw that the CDC were recommending hand washing as the solution for ebola – especially when it popped up right down the road in Dallas! We had a joke at my house that we needed to stock up on hand soap for the apocalypse 🙂

      Turns out, they recommend hand washing as the #1 preventative for a lot of diseases.

      Thanks for sharing the Mercola link.

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    • Andrew, thanks for your lucid reply. I totally agree.
      A sailor was urinating beside a naval officer. When he was finished he just walked out of the bathroom. The officer caught him and asked him if his mother taught him to wash his hands after urinating. The sailor said “No Sir, she taught me not to pee on my hands.”
      When you leave the restroom, if it has a door with a handle that you must touch, use a towel and if you touch anything but yourself in there, wash your hands but don’t touch the handle for the faucet OR the door.

  • Pamela

    Well I have to say that public bathrooms especially in NY will probably give you more germs when you touch the faucet. Leaving without washing your hands means your hands have less germs than if you use the faucet to wash them. In other words not washing hands has less germs than if you washed them.

    • Jim

      Very good point.. I think that is why a vast majority of bathroom faucets are now ‘touchless auto dispensing’.

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  • tag

    While I agree, washing hands after using the bathroom a MUST, as well as washing OFTEN when handling fresh or raw food, we also need to realize that some dirt is actually good for us. As with tossing our bodies with every vaccine to protect us isn’t working, neither is the anal way we have been conditioned to think we should live in a completely sterile environment. We have taken away our own bodies ability to learn to fight and develope a healthy immune system. I grew up pullling a carrot from the garden and brushing off the dirt then eating it! I grew up going barefoot in the barn. I grew up drinking RAW MILK! Still do! At almost 62 years old I still raise most of my own food, taking care of animals is all I know and haven’t had the need to see an MD in 30+ years, get a vaccine or submit myself to all those “fashionable” test tossed to all.

  • Roy

    IMHO, I think a person ( a man anyway ) might ALSO wash his mitts after he enters any bathroom, but BEFORE he whips out his willie and takes a pee. After all, it’s most likely the cleanest part of his body. More than likely he showered and washed it in the morning. Then it is completely covered ( I hope ) by his undershorts and trousers. Meanwhile, his hands is about the most polluted part of his body…which he just further infected when he opened the bathroom door. So now he pulls out ‘little snake’ to take a leak, and thus spreads germs on the least polluted part of his body. Soooo…how many people do you think wash their hands BEFORE and AFTER they use the loo?

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Hi Roy – I don’t know how many people wash before but judging from the comments on this article, there are probably quite a few… Good points – Thanks

    • GB

      I so agree with washing your hands prior to using a public bathroom – think what you touched before: merchandise, money, other people….the bathroom door
      I do wash my hands after bathroom use; but public bathrooms, if I must use one, I try to avoid them!, just gross me out 🙂
      I use my feet as much as possible to open doors, flush and still wash my hands.
      Then there is the subject of the darn air hand dryers! They blow every thing around, more gross 🙂
      There are also the people who make an effort and quick rinse with a few drops of water, they call it washing 🙂
      I turn the water faucet off after i dry my hands with the paper towel if it is available! Though germs are not surviving well on metal surfaces, why touch with washed hands what you just touched with unwashed? Kind of defeats the whole purpose.

    • Alan

      I totally agree and have washed my hands before using the loo for the last 20 years or so. I also wash after using any public transport, handrails, door handles etc., not to the point of obsession, but I am always aware of my own health.

  • Jessa

    My husband is a Paramedic and about to gain his RN degree. He says why don’t men wash their hands BEFORE they pee? You have touched all those germs and then going to put that on yourself? For us women we have a barrier in the form of toilet paper, but for men it does make more sense that they take the time to wash before as well! You bet he judge but if I were a guy and had to choose one time to wash it would’ve before. But as a woman I always wash afterwards and use my paper towel to open the door.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Hi Jessa – That’s a good point & looks like plenty of others agree with you.

    • Edy

      I agree with you Jessica. I always wash my hands after and use a paper towel to open the door. Unfortunately most facilities have loud air dryers. They may be able to dry your hands germ free but they reduce your hearing. I carry small towels in plastic bag and use them. If I am desperate, and it does happen, i would rather dry my hands on my slip. I really dislike public bathrooms, and consider them rather dirty, but they are nicer and cleaner than when I was a kid. some of them required 25 cents to open the door to use them.

  • Gracie

    The solution to this germ thing is simple. Use a sani-wipe to open/close, turn on/off everything on the way in and out of the bathroom and carry a spray bottle of thieves oil to sanitize your hands several times a day/hour when your out in public. Then when you get home strip and shower. By the way if this is done on a regular basis house cleaning becomes almost nill unless you have pets and kids. Stay away from the doctors office and their vaccines and I think that about covers it. ?

  • David

    I unzip and touch only myself, the Loo is auto. Now do I touch a dirty faucet and soap dispencer. NO…. I go to the door and open it with my sleeve. No germ contact except the outside of my zipper tag. Have a nice day and eat some clean dirt with those home grown carrots.

  • SteveFFFF

    I find all this sanitation extremes amusing. For eons of time man didn’t concern himself with all this hand washing but some how we didn’t all die out. Maybe in hospital wards where peoples immune systems are down. But in the real world I eat right and my immune system protects me. Case in point about catching germs if you can smell a fart from someone you are inhaling small particles of their crap and the germs attached to it, now you can really worry, LOL.

  • DJ

    I am with you and was waiting for you to address the door knob issue. The door knob almost defeats the point of washing your hands just when you are getting out of the bathroom. Luckily for me at work, the door does not close all the way. It goes only halfway into the jamb. I can open the door using my foot. A few people have commented when I have done that but then see the logic of not having to touch that nasty door handle.

  • I totally agree – several years ago I started to notice how many men do not wash their hands in public toilets. I discussed it with my wife then for a while tried to gauge how many men left without washing their hands. I came to the conclusion it was about 65 to 70%. The cruise ships have really acted on this as they have had bad publicity with viruses spreading rapidly through passengers and crew. They now take great steps to get people to wash their hands, they also have hand creams dispensers everywhere on ships and have staff at the entrance to all restaurants and cafes who actually spray the cleaner on everyone as they enter. They also wedge all public toilets door’s open for the reasons you mention and regularly show adverts on the TV”s in all cabins showing how to wash your hands properly (the happy birthday time guideline). This has really worked all we need now is for others to follow their lead such as shopping centres, local councils, hotel owners etc.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Hmm that’s interesting about the cruise ships – I never thought about it before but a cruise ship is like a giant petri dish…

  • Rory

    You hit it dead smack on the nail head……..I’ve gotten more than a few weird looks opening the restroom door using the paper towel I used to dry my hands. Most hand driers don’t do squat and most finish drying on their pants or shirt, if they even do wash. Good article

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  • Charlie

    Maybe I am an exception to the rule, but I wash my hands BEFORE I use the bathroom and here is the logic behind my decision – I shower every morning and ensure all my bits are clean, I then get dressed in clean underwear, etc. before carrying out the days jobs.

    If and when I go to the toilet during the day, it is my hands that have been uncovered, touching door handles, general household and garden dirt, banknotes and coins, stair handrails, shaking hands with visitors, etc. that are logically now covered in countless unknown bacteria. But my privates are still covered up and subject to far less sources of contamination.

    So my hands get the thorough washing, before I uncover my privates and transfer the bacteria down there.

    Of course, if a number 2 is required then I wash after, as well as before, but as a rule I always wash hands before using the bathroom.

  • Marie Salisbury Alberti-Thomson

    THANK YOU for this most needed article

  • Yes, lets all wash our hands in the public washroom, kill all the good bacteria on our skin with the antibacterial hand wash toxic chemicals passed off as soup and rinse up with toxic municipal tap water….real great advice Michael Ford…get a life!

  • corey

    Michael I walk into a restroom I try not to touch the door handle because I don’t want to touch my penis and get it infected. Hands are dirty, door handles are dirty, my penis is clean. When I pee I try not to touch me penis with my hands because they are dirty. Urine is sterile even if you get some on you. When I leave the restroom I get a paper towel and try not to touch the door handle, most germs are there.

    Now if I have a bowel movement I always wash my hands 100% of the time.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Hi Corey – Glad to hear you always wash after #2. Me too. It turns out that urine actually isn’t sterile – what we learned in school was wrong. There are microbes in your urine and your urinary tract. We’re crawling with life – inside & out!

  • Nancy McKinley

    Thank you! My man is a trucker and I started riding with him a year ago. I was sickened to see how many well dressed, outwardly very well kept women didn’t wash their hands or ran their hands under water and left…shaking water all over the floor for others to slip in (another issue)! I hope this goes viral!

  • Laurie

    Good for you! We need to put this awareness for people to wash their hands when done in bathroom. We don’t want to shake their hands or touch us when their hands ain’t clean.

  • Jill

    Excellent post. Thank you for sharing.

  • Cookin Mum

    A wonderful article. I am one of the people that always wash their hands. I solve the washroom knob problem whenever possible by taking the same paper I dry my hands with to the door and opening it with it. then throw the offending paper out when I find a garbage can. I also try to never touch door handles in general in public places, you will routinely find me opening doors with the sleeve of my coat. Now I see my grown daughter doing the same thing. Looks funny. But I got through the Sars outbreak when everyone around me was getting sick, buildings were closing down all around me, but I got past it. I had to work or I would have stayed home. So yes I know to wash your hands, it makes me crazy when I see someone is not doing that.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Whew – glad you made it through the Sars outbreak without getting sick – that must have been very scary!

      • L

        I knew someone that was in the same province as SARS when it began and she stayed through the whole outbreak without having a problem even though she was surrounded by it.

        The people there did not wear masks nor even know what soap was before the outbreak. They only (maybe?) used both when the govt. ordered them to be used. She had to teach how to use the soap. Actually they don’t use toilet paper there either except for in the anglicized areas.

  • david lee

    I agree the door on the way out is the dirtest or germiest. If it is one of those long door handles (like in most McDonalds), I take one finger and put on the very bottom where most people don’t grab it and pull it open. Bon appetite! Quit using those pens they furnish for you to use in banks and other places. Carry your own pen. And, salt and pepper shakers in restaurants.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Yeah, some of those door handles are pretty funky. Thanks for pointing out the pens. I touched a public pen about an hour ago & I thought to myself – “Man, he was right, I should have my own pen.”

  • Joyce

    Good article. I’ve never actually seen a woman leave the bathroom without washing. If she did, I would probably actually say something to her about spreading bathroom germs to herself or others. I do think that many women do not wash long enough, which is something I try to make a concerted effort to do as well. Maybe it’s just because public restrooms gross me out a bit in the first place, but I may actually wash longer than necessary. If paper towels are available, I always use one to open the bathroom door on the way out and dispose of it afterwards. I’m with the theory, better safe than sorry.

  • I tend to not want to wash for several reasons. my thought is that I should wash first if I’m gonna pee cause my hands are dirtier than my penus. And I do. I would use a paper towel to open the door. I don’t flush if I pee cause in California we are in a water shortage and flushing 5 gallons of water is insane. Also, that toxic soap in the bathroom, I don’t use it anywhere, at all, so why start now? No toxic chemicals make it on my body. And most of it has antibacterial stuff in it which is just clearly bad for everyone. I do my best not to touch anything. If I do need to, then I use a paper towel. But in today’s world, yes things are more and more automated. I personally don’t get sick that often. Being sick is a rarity in my world!

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Hi G – Good job keeping the toxic chemicals off your body. I hope public bathrooms will start to go back to plain old soap soon, even though the chemical cleaners are cheaper. People are learning about the dangers of antibiotics and antibacterial cleaners.

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  • Rod Limb

    Great article… My daughter in-law is a little OCD about germs… no longer will I scoff at her persistence we all wash hands before picking up the baby each time.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Haha – I can relate to that. We have a baby at my house & it seems like there’s always some discussion about germs & the baby. We protected him for the first 6 months or so… Now he’s allowed to get dirty!

  • Ixalmida

    Great article! I too am shocked at the number of men who don’t wash their hands after using the restroom at work. That said, I notice there are less non-hand-washers in my current workplace, but I’ve noticed a few. I keep hand sanitizer at my desk just in case someone shakes my hand, since I often can’t put a face to a culprit.

    I can almost relate when the culprit is just using the urinal. You might think, “I’m disease-free and clean. I didn’t pee on myself. I didn’t touch anything. Maybe I don’t need to wash my hands…” However, failing to wash your hands after any bathroom activity is thoughtless and rude, regardless of how clean you think you are. Even when I can justify not washing, I still do it out of courtesy. It isn’t about whether I am clean or not – it is about doing everything possible to prevent the spread of disease and making sure others know I’m not contributing to the spread.

    Wash hands. Don’t touch doorknobs. These are good habits. I actually think that Chinese people have it right – when you’re sick or there are others sick around you, wear a surgical mask. It may not stop all germs but it will prevent you from touching your face, which is a major vector. Worry less about the social stigma of wearing a mask and more about prevention.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Thanks! I agree with you – washing your hands before peeing is doing a service for yourself. Washing your hands after peeing is doing a service for your community. I think it’s a little selfish not to wash, when you know your hands are probably dirty.

  • Rhyner ramdeo

    Most of the times there are no soaps available for washing hands, or the paper towel is finished and not replaced. So many times washing make no sense in places where the facilities are of poor conditions. However with regards to the doorknob problem few of us choose to use paper towels to open the door on exiting the washroom because there is either no bin located to throw the paper towel or there are no paper towel. Also many places have not upgraded the facilities to automated system. So the bacterial contents is very high in a washroom is usually very risky. No sign are even provided at times.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Hi there – yeah, you’re right – sometimes the public bathroom can be a real mess, especially when a crowd has been using it.

  • Alexei Agafonov

    Great article! Normally when I travel through various airports around the world this has always crossed my mind. With reference to the door know generally I have found that I form a fist and then push the door open with a clenched fist or I use an elbow.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Hi Alexei – Thanks for your comment. I have also used my elbow to open the bathroom door many times. It makes me wonder how dirty my elbows are…

  • Jana D.

    Re bathroom doors. If they push one way, it should be out. Problem solved. Probably they think, more likely someone will be hit on the way out.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      Jana – Yeah, if they all opened out that would be much better. Especially if they put a kick plate on them so you could open them with your shoe!

    • Actually, it is possible to delete comments even after I approved them (thanks Sam, it was a browser problem), but I’m going to leave that one there, together with my reply. Just to state that on this blog, comments from readers of all kinds of sexual preferences, religion, country, skin color, race, etc.. are weSotme.lcupidity is not welcome.Aloha.

  • Josephine

    Not washing your hands after doing your business is a major way to pass many bacteria, including staff infections.

    Years ago, while working at Harvard University no less, a few of my co-workers and I notice that there was another female staff member that never washed her hands after using the loo. Not even when dealing with feminine products. This staff member has a PhD in education! Yes it was a topic of discussion, because we wanted to make sure not to touch food if she had touched it. With 200 people in our office there seemed to be a party every week, so we had to watch for chips, popcorn etc.
    It is just gross as well as unhealthy to not wash your hands.

  • CaptTurbo

    I wash my hands BEFORE I pee. Hell, I know where winkie has been. 😉

  • Fayette

    The best public restrooms I have visited have doors that swing out. I do not have a germ phobia, but my set of micro biota is not the same as everyone else’s. We are in constant contact with co-workers and strangers who have colds, infections and contagion of various kinds. True many of them are not life threatening, but if I have a cold, out of common courtesy to the rest of the world I do not sneeze and/or cough without making attempts to cover my mouth. I wash my hands in an attempt to not spread my contagion to others. Infection and contagion can be passed from one person to another through touch and as a common courtesy is it too much to ask that those using a public facility do all in their power not to spread their contagion to the rest of the world? And yes the door knob is a problem along with the faucet, they are both touched by unwashed and potentially germ spreading hands. I use paper towel to turn off the faucet and paper towel to open the door. I really am grateful for those organizations that do not put doors on the public restroom or put doors that swing out so you do not risk the contamination. Although the days of the plagues and black death epidemics are history, never forget what the remedy was – a little thoughtful cleanliness.

  • Jennifer H

    Honestly it depends on the bathroom I’m in. If the bathroom looks nice and clean I always wash my hands. Sometimes though I feel like if I touch anything especially the faucet and door I am just getting more germs from other people. I would rather keep to my own germs than gain a bunch from strangers. At home I always wash my hands.

  • Nancy

    I never touch the door handle. I use the paper towel or a piece of clothing. I wish that women who chose to pee standing up would lift the seat up instead of leaving a urine covered seat for the next person.

  • Paranoia will destroya—how else are we going to support the biodiversity of our biome? Not that I lick my fingers after using the head, but Urine is one of only three sterile body fluids. If you’d learn not to piss on your hands, you would not need to waste the water we so direly need to drink. Don’t get me wrong, if my finger pokes a hole in the TP that’s an entirely different matter.

    Pound -for-pound your body is comprised of 50% micro-organisms on the inside, a few extra on the outside didn’t make Neanderthal Man run for the river! And in modern times we have learned, some of us that is, that “Hand Sanitizers” do more harm than good if used too often. And let’s not forget what Verdana Shiva said “We are made of Soil”, it’s a dirty world out there, go pull some weeds without gloves.

  • Susan Parnaby

    As with everything there needs to be a balance and some people are way out of balance in this respect. A visit to the gents sent my ex’s fear level through the roof. It was not always easy trying to curb his hand washing at home. There were times when I rejoiced when it took him as little as 30 minutes to wash his hands. Yet while out and about he did his best to look normal but it was tough to keep his fears under control.

    Even if you don’t wash your hands to help yourself it would be much better if you bear in mind people with OCD and other similar fears. The sad thing was that other men could have made satisfying this basic need much easier for him if only they had followed basic hygiene practises.

  • Hunter

    I only wash if I get crap on my hands, scrubbing hard so I don’t have to use the toxic soap. I always use a paper towel to open the door. The soap in public bathrooms is a toxic mess I will never touch.

  • jag

    I never touch the door, without a paper towel, on my way out. Businesses are getting smarter by putting the trash can near the door, cause I’m not the only one with the idea. They find paper towels behind the door. On the rare occasion I have to touch the door, I have homemade wipes in the truck to supplement.

  • darrell ballein

    good morning marjory,how is your morning?? good im guessing.iv loved your site ever since i came across it a year or 2 ago,not to sure really, time seems to fly by like a morning breeze..love the snake bite story,but wanted to comment on the hand washing.my mom was always on me to wash my hands all the time,hated it when i was a kid,but now im glad she forced me to do it..i wash mine all the time before fixing meals after the bathroom its almost became a obsession with me in a way.i taught my kids to do it ,my grand kids any one who will listen which aint to many to be honest,its crazy how lazy people have become in this world even with such a minor task as washing your hands.im always washing light switchs,door nobs,handles you name it if a hands touchs it im disinfecting it,i always use the little towels on the grocery cart handles at krogers but alot of people dont..oh well thats on them….oh for the record if you dont know im a man so that makes me 40% of the men who do wash thier hands…have a great day my friend.

  • John R

    Things I was taught at a young age.
    1. Dont pee on your fingers.
    2. Wash your hands before you touch your clean pee-pee.
    3. If there is nothing to dry your hands on, dont wash them. If you do wash them and leave with wet hands, what if someone wanted to shake hands with you? They would think you peed on your hands.

  • Debbie

    I always wash my hands well, with water only, because that restroom soap is too nasty, but then I have to touch the doorknob that has been handled by everyone who didn’t wash to get out. Also, unless it is automated, you have to touch the same faucet to turn off the water that was touched by you and everyone else to turn it on before washing their hands. Forget using a paper towel because most bathrooms I have been in lately only have those blow dryers.

    To be honest though, aside from the gross factor, there is probably some truth to the saying, “what you don’t know won’t hurt you,” as there are plenty of other germy things outside the bathroom that people routinely touch without washing their hands. I try not to obsess over things I cannot control and concentrate on keeping my immune system strong.

  • anne

    Just curious, does anyone know, do the chemicals put in the tap water to kill germs, including healthy microbes that are an essential part of us, kill the germs on our hands, and if they do, is it a good thing.. Clorine, cloramides, floride etc. are destroying our immune systems is my belief. Seems like soap isn’t even necessary.

  • DGPrepper

    Preach, brotha! I’ve been harping about this for ages. The part that many men don’t get is that hand-washing isn’t just for your own health but the peace of mind of other bathroom visitors. Especially consider that in the workplace, when you see someone fail to wash their hands after using the bathroom, you become inclined to avoiding contact with that person. Imagine a workplace where everyone is afraid to shake anyone’s hand!

    I would also emphasize that if you can avoid contacting any bathroom surface, you should. If a bathroom has paper towels, use them to press levers, turn on faucets and open doors. If all else fails, use a sleeve or your shirt to open the door on your way out. There may also be times when not washing is the lesser evil (over touching infected surfaces) or not even an option, such as with portable johns. If I’m ever in that situation, I try to have hand sanitizer and/or wipes handy.

  • Gina Bisaillon

    I’m a woman and it’s not the faucets I’m afraid of – it’s those @&^*% noisy blowers! If there’s no paper to dry my hands, I can’t wait to get out of the place. That’s why I always keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my bag and another one in my car.

    On the positve side, I have noticed that more and more public washrooms are built without entrance doors, by simply adding an extra corridor. Now that’s progress! And so is a sanitizer dispenser close by.

    If there is a doorknob, I just grab an extra sheet of paper and use that to open the door.

  • J'Marinde

    The REAL truth is this – -the sinks and faucets in public restrooms are almost ALWAYS FILTHY and looking dirtier than anything. Who wants to wash their hands in filth? Plus the dryers or paper towels, etc. are also dirty-looking or nonexistent. What do we use to safely dry our hands? Think about this! Too often I have to use my dress to dry my hands. What can a guy use?

  • Lee

    And then there are a Lot of people in our country now who never had the ability, or facilities, to learn & have good hygiene in their home countries. NOT prejudiced, just some facts. Some were even taught to wipe with their bare (left) hand, that tp is unhygienic, and washing offends their modesty. Knowing All THAT, I’ve trained my spouse & myself to wash our hands whenever we come home from the public. And then I wipe the doorknob with a cleanser to not undo the cleansing we just gave ourselves. Yes, real men do wash their hands!

  • Vege-tater

    Actually I worry as much about the disgusting fecal contamination spread by animal products in grocery stores, even though I don’t even eat the stuff, the fluids contaminate hands, carts and everything else, and since the animals are fed 80% of all antibiotics, are probably the source of all the resistant strains of bacteria that plague us now. Since I stopped eating meat I no longer get UTI’s, and this may be why: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/avoiding-chicken-to-avoid-bladder-infections/

  • Paul Youngquist

    I think it’s a toss-up. The door and faucet handles probably have more germs on them then my fingers do after I’m finished.

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  • Natro

    Generally my “thing” is the cleanest object in a public restroom. If it wasn’t I would stop and wash that.

    • Doc Eibenschotte

      LOL!!! As a biologically sound human, I can attest that the public need not fear my johnson, either. It’s the anal-expressive types among us that make danger for all.

  • Doc Eibenschotte

    Since restocking the soap dispenser is apparently not a priority of about half the establishments I visit, I carry sterilizer in my car. I HATE motion “activated” fixtures, about as much as I do anything public. The tipping point was seeing a man returning a library book blowing his nose without a tissue, if you get my drift. What’s a grumpy f***** to do?

  • Darshana

    I will NOT wash my hands with the soap in a public restroom when usually all they have is that horrible smelling soap made with toxic synthetic fragrance. I even beg my husband to please NOT use the soap in the men’s room if it has that stinky soap, as he gets it onto my hands when he holds them walking home. The smell of that stuff makes me sick! And sometimes gives me a headache. And it is so hard to wash off the artificial fragrance once he gets home (to our good natural soap)! That stuff is made to persist! If only all restrooms had EO or other natural soaps like the Whole Foods bathroom, that would be so much healthier.

    When I need to wash my hands, I just rub them with plain water, and then use the paper towel to open the door.

    Those artificial fragrance “air freshener” machines in some bathrooms are also just awful. I have gone in to take a quick pee, and had my hair smell like the chemical air product when I got in my car later from just that quick exposure – talk about ewwwww!

  • John Spek

    If we are worried about being lean – we should wash BEFORE WE GO TO THE BATHROOM.

    Our hands touch all sorts of surfaces with all sorts of bacteria and growth. Then we go to the bathroom, touch more places with more of the same, and then touch intimate parts of our bodies that often are kept at perfect microbe and bacteria breeding warmth and moisture levels.

  • Dina Williams

    Michael Ford – Thank you for this article! I don’t usually reply or comment on these things, but obviously there are a lot of misconceptions regarding how important it is to wash our hands.

    Sometimes I will wash “before”. I always use a seat protector (or two). And I try to use a piece of toilet paper on the latch that closes the stall. (Think of all the things people have been doing before touching that latch on the way out!) I always wash with soap afterward, and turn off the water with my elbows or with paper towels. And I use a paper towel to open the door handle. Yeah, I’m a germ freak. I’m married to an ER doctor. He’s the same way (even more so). A word about soap. It doesn’t kill the germs, but it helps to make the water “wetter”, enabling more of the icky stuff to slide off and head down the drain, rather than reside on your skin for you to pass around to everyone else.

    If you don’t want to wash for your own sake, please do it for the sake of others, including the elderly and immunosuppressed. We are a community of humans. Please don’t pass along your E.coli. We don’t want it.

  • Terrance

    While I am aware that there are many people out there with poor hand hygiene. I am in the percentage of people that practice excellent hygiene. I can’t tell you how many times I see people leave public restrooms without washing even after making manure. It is very disgusting. I learned good hygeine because I used to work in a hospice as a nurse and I have been everything from a kitchen manager, cook, dishwasher, server, bartender, and GM of restaurants.

    The big thing I would love to learn is to make my own soap.

  • Carlos Clavell

    As a professional who work for the major Health Department I have to agree with the carelessness of many men practice of poor hygiene after urinal/toilet use. It can be a challenge trying to exit bathroom without contaminating your hands but a simple use of paper towel with small hand sanitizer can remedy that. Besides the fact that upbringing also plays a major role in promoting good hygiene as a father I have to mimic that proper hygiene behavior my children as well.

  • Quinton Edwards

    Two servicemen were using the urinals in a hotel lobby. As they finished up, one went to the sink to wash up, while the other headed right for the door. He spoke up, “In basic training, they taught us to wash our hands after using the latrine”.
    The other serviceman looked him right in the eye and said “In basic training they taught us NOT to pee on our hands”‘

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