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Loo-dicrous: Fewer Brits wash their hands than before the pandemic

Research released by Initial Washroom Hygiene has found that fewer people wash their hands after visiting a public washroom now, than in 2018.

The findings come in spite of a government public information campaign that focused on handwashing to help prevent and slow the spread of Coronavirus throughout the pandemic. Just two thirds (66 per cent) of Brits say they always wash their hands after using a public washroom, compared to 74 per cent in 2018. A smaller percentage (54 per cent) say they dry their hands after washing them, even though damp hands have been shown to spread 1,000 times more bacteria than dry ones.

The survey of 1,000 UK consumers undertaken in June 2021, looked at their hygiene habits and was conducted by Opinion Matters for Initial Washroom Hygiene. Some key findings from this research were released to coincide with Global Handwashing Day 2021 (15 October), an annual global advocacy day dedicated to promoting handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

Initial Washroom Hygiene’s own research from Global Handwashing Day 2020 suggested that the public had received the message about handwashing and how it can help prevent the spread of illness and disease. It found that  81 per cent of Brits would continue to wash their hands more frequently at home and in public, when the pandemic was over. Fast forward to 2021 and it appears that Brits have reverted to past poor hand hygiene habits.

However, outside of the washroom, the research suggests that the public is using hand sanitiser to try and help improve hand hygiene. The majority (56 per cent) of those who work in a shared workplace or building state that they are likely to sanitise their hands regularly at work in order to help manage hygiene risks. This will be particularly important as evidence suggests workers are returning to their physical workplaces in greater numbers.

Further, the presence of no touch soap, sanitiser and paper hand towel dispensers is likely to boost the public’s hand hygiene behaviour. Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of people surveyed indicated that they would be more inclined to sanitise their hands if the dispenser is no touch, and 70 per cent of people surveyed said they would be more likely to wash their hands if the soap dispenser provided was no touch.

Jamie Woodhall, Technical and Innovation Manager at Initial Washroom Hygiene commented: “After so much communication about the importance of handwashing in the past 18 months, it’s staggering to see survey results that suggest people’s habits are worse now than prior to the pandemic.

“Handwashing is a simple and effective way of helping to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses, and control the spread of highly contagious illnesses such as the common cold or norovirus. Many of the most common harmful microorganisms originate in the washroom, so handwashing is particularly important after using the toilet.

“With people starting to resume their normal lives, commuting on public transport, returning to their place of work or visiting busy public places, we have a responsibility to each other to do what we can to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. Especially as we approach winter when bacteria and microbes are able to live longer in the air and on hard surfaces due to the cooler temperatures.

“I believe this research shows that employers and business owners have an important role to play in encouraging people to practice good hand hygiene. Making it as easy as possible for people to properly wash their hands by providing ample handwashing facilities, touch-free dispensers and signage to act as reminders, can go a long way to helping prevent the spread of bacteria and illnesses.”


About Sarah OBeirne

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