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Most of us are slackers when it comes to hand washing

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New research finds men are dirtier than women, but not by much.

Health officials say that washing your hands is the best thing you can do to avoid getting sick.

When it comes to putting that into practice, studies have found that a lot of us say we do a good job, but researchers found most of us don’t do anywhere near as good a job as we should.

Carl Borchgrevink is an associate professor in the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University.

"...to be blunt, there's a lot of dirty hands out there."

“We found that people do not wash their hands as much as they should… or to be blunt… there’s a lot of dirty hands out there,” he says.

He’s the author of a new study in the Journal of Environmental Health.

His research team observed 3,749 people in public bathrooms around East Lansing.

He says only 5% of people washed their hands long enough. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing with regular soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds.

“The average time for the sample as a whole was 6.75 seconds, which is horrifying to think that they’re not anywhere close. For men, it was 6.3 seconds, for women it was 7.1 seconds, so even though women are better they’re still not a whole lot better.”

...when it comes to people not washing their hands at all, there's a bigger gender gap.

But when it comes to people not washing their hands at all, there’s a bigger gender gap.

“We have 15% of the men who leave the restroom without washing their hands, and in terms of women it’s only 7%.”

Nice work guys.

On top of that, 35% of men just wet their hands with water and didn’t use any soap.

15% of women did that.

Borchgrevink says the research team estimated the age of people they were observing. He says people who appeared to be college age or younger did a worse job of washing their hands than older people.

He says there’s a good rule of thumb: wash your hands with regular soap and water for as long as it takes to sing the happy birthday song twice.

Here's Borchgrevink talking about his research:


Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.