Americans Aren’t as Obsessed About Washing Their Hands Now

People are washing up 7.8 times a day now, compared to 10.5 times in spring 2020.

February 24, 2022

Hand Washing

MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis.—Handwashing frequency has decreased 25% among adults compared to when the coronavirus first hit, according to a survey from Bradley Corporation.

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. Forty-four percent say they regularly ask their young ones to wash their hands, and 26% have added it to their children’s routine, while 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, Ph.D., professor and chair of biology, 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.

Overall, the 2022 survey found anxiety and actions surrounding the coronavirus have relaxed as the country enters the third year of the pandemic. Forty-one percent 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. Seventy-eight percent 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.

“Germ avoidance and handwashing diligence are two habits that should always be a priority,” says Jon Dommisse, vice president of marketing and corporate communication for Bradley Corp. “No matter the time of year or situation we’re in, lathering up, scrubbing thoroughly, rinsing and drying your hands is something that should be done consistently without fail.”