Friday Funny: Americans Dish On Hand Washing, Germs, And Public Restrooms

Don't touch things in public restrooms.
According to the Healthy Hand Washing Survey conducted by Bradley Corp., Americans use various techniques to avoid touching things and coming into contact with germs in a public restroom. (Photo: PRNewsFoto/Bradley Corporation.)

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

A national survey finds that Americans are hit-or-miss about washing their hands after using a public restroom. And men seem to be less concerned about washing up than women. The results are part of the Healthy Hand Washing Survey conducted by Bradley Corporation, a manufacturer of commercial washroom accessories and plumbing fixtures.

When asked about their hand washing habits, just 66% of Americans say they always wash up after using a public restroom—despite the fact that 92% believe it’s important to wash their hands after a visit. Hand washing might also be considered a “she said, he said” scenario. Nearly 75% of women say they always wash up versus 59% of men who claim they always do.

And why don’t men wash up? According to the survey, 25% say they “didn’t feel the need.” In addition, men are far more likely than women to say they frequently see others leave a restroom without washing their hands.

Interestingly, a good number of women and men report they use evasive maneuvers to avoid coming in contact with germs in a public restroom. Overall, 57% of Americans operate the toilet flusher with their foot, 55% use a paper towel to avoid touching the door handle directly, and 45% employ their hip to open and close doors.

When it comes to the state of public restrooms, there is room for improvement, since nearly 60% say they’ve had a particularly unpleasant experience due to restroom conditions. The top complaints: a really bad smell, toilets that were clogged or not flushed, and an overall appearance that was dirty, unkempt, or old.

For businesses, an unpleasant restroom experience creates negative perceptions. A majority of consumers believe a bad restroom indicates poor management.

“When we asked about the single most important improvement respondents would like to see in restrooms, ‘cleanliness’ topped the list,” says Jon Dommisse, director of global marketing and strategic development at Bradley Corporation. “Restroom hygiene is a hot button with Americans, since 85% say they hurry to exit a restroom when it’s unpleasant.”

The Healthy Hand Washing Survey queried 1,030 American adults online about their hand washing habits in public restrooms and concerns about germs, colds, and the flu. Participants were from around the country, ranged in age from 18 to 65 and older, and were fairly evenly split between men and women (47% and 53%).