Survey shows fewer people washing hands after using public restroom

Published on: 9/11/2012

Menomonee Falls - Bradley Corp. recently released the results of its annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey that shows a surprising amount of people do not believe in washing their hands on an ongoing basis.

The survey asked a sampling of 301 Wisconsin adults how often they wash their hands after using a public restroom. In total, 66 percent said they wash up, 29 percent said they usually or about half the time wash and 4 percent said they usually don't or never do. When asked about others' hand washing actions in public restrooms, 77 percent of Wisconsinites said they frequently or occasionally see people leave without washing their hands. Men were significantly more likely to see this occur than women - 38 percent of men said they frequently see non-hand washers vs. 18 percent of women.

The survey also found that the majority of Wisconsinites need to wash their hands longer. Fifty-six percent say they wash for just 5 to 15 seconds. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing for at least 20 seconds and suggests singing "Happy Birthday" twice to allow enough time to remove germs and rinse them away.

Menomonee Falls-based Bradley Corp. manufactures bathroom and locker room furnishings including sinks, faucets, hand dryers, showers and lockers. Bradley Corp. expanded the statewide survey four years ago. The company started by using focus groups to gauge what kind of products people would like to see in public bathrooms.

This expanded into a public service survey for research's sake. Now, the company contracts with an outside research agency to conduct an unbiased, legitimate survey with a wide demographic of respondents, said Jon Dommisse, director of global marketing and strategic development at Bradley Corp.

"We have a lot of people across the country that follow the results of the survey from year to year way beyond local media outlets, from health organizations, national media outlets across the country and radio stations," he said.

Not only does Bradley Corp. utilize the results in sales presentations and marketing research, but health care agencies nationwide also rely on the survey results.

"We use information from the CDC and the Mayo Clinic, and they also obviously want as much help as possible to get the word out that soap and water hand washing is still the simplest and number one way to reduce the transmission of disease," Dommisse said.

For the last three years, the survey has shown an increase to the number of people washing their hands. This year, however, that number ticked down slightly. Dommisse believes this is a result of no current, nationwide health epidemic such as Swine Flu, which is creating a false sense of security.

"There is no true national epidemic really plaguing the whole United States and hopefully it continues that way, but on the negative side, people aren't feeling that fear factor that they have to take extra special attention and people on the fence aren't being as vigilant with hand washing," Dommisse said.

Fewer parents also stated they would be talking to their children about the importance of hand washing when attending school.

For the second year in a row, Wisconsinites say they prefer to visit a gas station for a bathroom stop while on a road trip. Thirty-three percent of state residents indicated a gas station was their first choice for a restroom break. Rest areas came in second with 28 percent of the vote and fast food restaurants finished third with 23 percent. Respondents frequently mentioned gas stations as the place where they have had an unpleasant restroom experience.

Bradley Corp. is also seeing an overwhelming feeling from the public that people do not want to touch things in public restrooms and automation and technological bathrooms will continue to advance in the future.

- Danielle Switalski