06/11/2013 08:00 am ET Updated Jun 12, 2013

Proper Hand-Washing: Only 5 Percent Of Us Do It Right, Study Finds

We do a pretty shoddy job at washing our hands after using the restroom.

That's the finding of a recent study in the Journal of Environmental Health, showing that only 5 percent of people wash their hands for 15 to 20 seconds, which is the amount of time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you need to kill bacteria, in order to prevent the spread of diseases.

Instead, we spend about 6 seconds washing our hands on average.

"These findings were surprising to us because past research suggested that proper hand washing is occurring at a much higher rate," study researcher Carl Borchgrevink, an associate professor of hospitality business at Michigan State University, said in a statement.

The study included 3,749 people who used public restrooms in bars, restaurants and other locations, who were watched by a team of college students observing casually from the side.

Researchers found that 33 percent of people didn't use soap after washing their hands, and 10 percent didn't even lather up after using the restroom. They also found that men were less likely to wash their hands than women -- 15 percent of men versus 7 percent of women -- and were also less likely to use soap than women -- 50 percent of men versus 78 percent of women.

Environmental factors seemed to play a role, too. Particularly, if the sink was dirty, people were less likely to wash their hands. And if there was a sign reminding people to wash their hands, they were more likely to do it.

This particular finding seems to fall in line with a recent study in the journal Human Communication Research, showing that men are more likely to wash their hands after using the restroom if they're exposed to relatable reminder signs in the bathroom.

So what's the best way to wash your hands, anyway? According to the CDC, you should first wet your hands with clean water, then get some soap and work it into a lather. Scrub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, and then rinse before drying.



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