Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Family Features) — The importance of hand washing has long been advised by health professionals, especially during the cold and flu season. A recent study, however, found that 95 percent of Americans admit it is important to wash their hands after using a public restroom. This is particularly true with women compared to men. What’s even more interesting is that a growing number of consumers admit to simply rinsing their hands with water without using soap in public washrooms. This number has increased from 54 percent to 70 percent on the national level over the past two years. And just how long are they “washing” their hands? Suds or no suds, a majority of Americans do not wash their hands long enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recommended time to wash one’s hands with soap and water in order to kill bacteria is at least 20 seconds. These findings are part of the fifth annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey conducted by Bradley Corp., a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of commercial plumbing fixtures and washroom accessories. Bradley is dedicated to innovating products that create more efficient washroom environments and promote healthy hand washing. Positive responses to media The survey also revealed that increased media coverage or stories about food-borne or airborne illnesses have an impact on hand washing habits. More than half of consumers, 57 percent, claimed they wash their hands more often and more thoroughly in response to news coverage. Sixty-six percent also reported washing their hands more frequently in response to news about seasonal flu outbreaks. “These findings underscore the need for consumers to be mindful of good hand hygiene,” said Jon Dommisse, director of global marketing and strategic development for Bradley. “Everyone can play their part in preventing the spread of viruses such as influenza during the winter months. Always remember, it takes less than a minute to effectively wash your hands.” Stay healthy all year long To keep you and your family healthy, Bradley recommends five simple steps to effective hand washing: 1. Wash More Frequently. It’s important to wash your hands not only after using the washroom, but, before and after preparing and eating food; before and after treating a wound; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; and after touching the garbage. 2. Count to 20. Proper hand washing means scrubbing with water and soap for at least 20 seconds or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. 3. Don’t Forget to Dry. Smart hand hygiene should not only include washing, but thoroughly drying hands as well. The most hygienic and sustainable method is using an energy-efficient dryer such as the one found on the all-in-one touchless Advocate Lavatory System. 4. Hand Sanitizers Aren’t Enough. While 29 percent of consumers surveyed use a hand sanitizer, it may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty. Anti-bacterial gel is not a substitute for soap and water, and should only be relied upon if hand washing facilities are not available. 5. Clean Hands Means Healthy Kids. Hand washing among school-age children is especially important because nearly 2.2 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, according to a 2011 study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Kids should be taught healthy routines like hand washing at an early age. For further information on hand hygiene find Bradley on Twitter @bradleycorp, Facebook/BradleyCorporation or go to http://www.bradleycorp.com/handwashing.