by Brianna Crandall — February 26, 2020 — This year, concern about contracting the flu (influenza) is rampant, according the annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey conducted by Bradley Corporation. The survey found that 60% of Americans are extremely or quite concerned about catching the flu, compared to just 32% who felt that way four years ago. Among all age groups, Millennials expressed the most trepidation about getting sick.
The survey also found that, in response to flu outbreaks, Americans become more conscientious about hand washing when they’re out and about. Nearly 80% say they wash their hands more frequently, more thoroughly or longer after using a public restroom — but other responses show that poor public restroom conditions may keep them from doing so.
The findings are part of the US-based restroom equipment manufacturer’s annual survey that queried 1,005 adults and youth throughout the United States about germs, the flu, colds and hand-washing habits. The respondents represented four generations — Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers.
With flu concerns prevalent, the national survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of Americans correctly believe that hand washing is more effective in removing germs than hand sanitizer — a fact supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to Michael P. McCann, Ph.D., medical microbiologist and professor of biology, Saint Joseph’s University:
Thorough hand washing with soap and water remains the best way to reduce the spread of disease-causing microorganisms when caring for sick family members. Soap and water, used as per the evidence-based recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and other government agencies, will help reduce the spread of flu and other illnesses in the home and workplace.
Overall, germ avoidance is top of mind, finds the report. At home, if someone is sick or if a cold or flu virus is going around, Americans kick into action: 65% wipe down bathroom and kitchen surfaces, and 47% wipe doorknobs and handles.
And, when they’re sick, respondents say they change the way they greet people: 54% wave hello, 48% avoid shaking hands, and 18% use a fist or elbow bump to avoid hand-to-hand contact.
In a public restroom, 93% of Americans try to avoid coming in contact with germs by employing evasive measures: 65% use a paper towel when touching door handles, faucets or toilet flushers and 44% operate the toilet flusher with their foot.
Jon Dommisse, director of Strategy and Corporate Development for Bradley Corp., pointed out:
Americans are increasingly employing defense mechanisms against sickness. During the cold and flu season — and year-round — everyday preventive measures like hand washing with soap and water can help stop germs in their tracks.
While 97% believe it’s important to wash up after using a public restroom, hand washing doesn’t happen all the time. Respondents said they washed their hands 86% of the time after using a public restroom. Gen Z was the least diligent, clocking in at a consistency rate of 82%. At the other end of the spectrum, Boomers were the most consistent since they lather up 91% of the time after using a public restroom.
Unfortunately, there is also a rinse-and-run phenomenon; 67% admit they’ve skipped the soap and simply rinsed their hands with water after using a public restroom. Of all the age groups, Gen X is mostly likely to short cut hand washing, with 73% admitting they’ve only rinsed their hands.
The importance of clean restrooms
The survey found that consumers value well-kept public restrooms; almost three out of four respondents make it a point to visit a business they know has nice restrooms, and 62% are even willing to spend more money to find one. Over half say they feel more positive about a business if they see a cleaning schedule posted.
Unfortunately, a record high number of respondents — 76% — report having a frustratingly bad public restroom encounter, such as:
- Clogged/unflushed toilets (85%)
- Empty/jammed toilet paper dispensers (83%)
- Stall doors that don’t latch shut (78%)
Poor conditions are the main culprit behind people skipping hand washing during a restroom visit. Lack of soap and/or paper towels and dirty and/or non-functioning sinks are the two most common reasons for not washing hands.
The 11th annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey by Bradley Corp. queried American adults and youth online December 11-16, 2019. Participants were from around the country, were 14 years and older, and were fairly evenly split between men and women (47% and 53%).
For more information about Bradley’s 2020 Healthy Hand Washing Survey, visit the company’s website. For over 95 years, Bradley has created advanced commercial washrooms, supplying multi-function hand washing and drying fixtures, accessories, partitions, solid plastic lockers, emergency safety fixtures and electric tankless heaters for commercial, institutional and industrial building markets worldwide.