One Hand Washes The Other—Maybe

Lady Macbeth isn’t the only one. It turns out that many woman wash their hands a lot—more so, at any rate, than men do. In a survey of adults commissioned by The Soap and Detergent Association, women said they wash their hands nine times a day, on average, while men make do with six hand-washings per day. (The chart below gives the data for adults in general.) Women’s greater propensity for hand-washing is in sync with their perception that it’s a matter of health: 60 percent of women, vs. 42 percent of men, said washing one’s hands is among the chief ways to avoid getting colds and flu. Alas, 43 percent of respondents said they seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing. Even when people do wash their hands, they may do a slapdash job of it. While experts say it takes at least 20 seconds to remove germs and dirt, 16 percent of respondents typically devote less than 10 seconds to the task, and another 38 percent spend 10-15 seconds. Just 23 percent said they allot more than 20 seconds to a typical washing. Ninety percent of those polled claimed they always wash their hands after using the bathroom; 8 percent said they often do so. However, the report notes that observational studies have found “as many as one-third of public restroom users did not wash their hands.”