Survey Finds 25% Decrease in Handwashing Among the Public Compared to Beginning of Pandemic

The Healthy Handwashing Survey™ from Bradley Corporation has found handwashing frequency decreased 25% among adults compared to when the coronavirus first hit.

Specifically, in the spring of 2020, Americans were washing their hands an average of 10.5 times per day. This January, that number dropped by one-fourth to 7.8 times per day.

While the adult population may be shortchanging their handwashing routine, the survey found that 79% of parents take some sort of action to encourage their children to suds up. 44% say they regularly ask their young ones to wash their hands, 26% have added it to their children’s routine and 25% buy fun soaps to make handwashing more interesting.

As for hand hygiene outside of the home, 64% of parents say their child’s school or daycare builds handwashing into the daily schedule.

“Handwashing has been shown to be a simple, safe and effective way to reduce the transmission of viruses and bacteria, including the virus that causes Covid-19,” says medical microbiologist Michael P. McCann, PhD, professor and chair of biology at Saint Joseph's University. “It is essential that everyone maintain high-levels of personal hygiene and that we do not let down our guard.”

As a first line of defense to remove germs, 61% of Americans correctly believe their hands are less germy after washing with soap and water than after using hand sanitizer – a fact supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For times when soap and water are not available, the CDC says that hand sanitizer is a good, second option for hand hygiene.

Also, the majority of American adults are on target with how long they wash their hands. The CDC recommends lathering up and scrubbing for a minimum of 20 seconds. The survey found that 63% follow that guidance and wash for an average of 21 seconds. However, 17% of the population say they only take five to 10 seconds to clean up.

Since 2009 and throughout the pandemic, Bradley Corporation has conducted its Healthy Handwashing Survey to take a closer look at the state of hand hygiene in America and, most recently, the impact of the coronavirus.

Overall, the 2022 survey found anxiety and actions surrounding the coronavirus have relaxed as the country enters the third year of the pandemic.

Currently 41% of respondents say they are very concerned about contracting the coronavirus. That’s a significant drop from January 2021 when more than half of the population (53%) expressed a high level of concern.

Another indication that fears are starting to ebb is showing up in the way people greet each other. In April 2020, 67% preferred to wave hello in order to eliminate physical contact and 49% said they specifically avoided shaking hands. In January 2022, 44% are using a wave as a greeting and only 36% say they are avoiding handshakes.

And, while still high, concerns about coming into contact with germs are also starting to recede. These days, 78% of Americans say they are more conscious about germs as a result of the coronavirus compared to 89% in April 2020 and 86% in February 2021.

The annual Healthy Handwashing Survey from Bradley Corp. queried 1,035 American adults Jan. 10-21, 2022, about their handwashing habits, concerns about the coronavirus and flu and their use of public restrooms. Participants were from around the country and were fairly evenly split between men (46%) and women (54%).