It seems silly that we’re about to have this conversation, but people really need to start washing their hands. Like, right the fuck now. Oh, what’s that? You already wash your hands thoroughly after each bathroom visit, scrubbing with soap until you create a nice lather, and then rinsing under warm water? LIAR!
A new study from Michigan State University's School of Hospitality and Business pared back the fingernails of America’s handwashing slackers and found tiny fortresses of gross bacteria waiting to mount an assault on the world’s public surfaces. A mere five percent of people wash their hands thoroughly enough to vaporize the poop bacteria that gather after a visit to the bathroom, and only 33 percent of people even bothered with soap. Meanwhile, ten percent of people just didn’t wash their hands at all, because they are the worst. Study author Carl Borchgrevink described this unfortunate phenomenon the only way a civilized person who enjoys dining out and not accidentally eating more than his or her just share of feces could: “It’s horrifying.” Truly.
Okay, so Borchgrevink’s study has some obvious limitations, first among which is that he and his 12 research assistants limited their creepy bathroom stakeouts to East Lansing, meaning that it’s very possible that East Lansing is home to a disproportionate number of non-handwashing bathroom goblins. Researchers observed more than 3,700 bathroom-goers “in a non-intrusive manner,” guesstimating ages as fitting into one of two fairly broad categories: “college-age” and “non-college-age.” Misinterpretations are bound to occur, especially if observations occurred in movie theater bathrooms, where the rules of handwashing are suspended while one copes with the terror of being alone in a movie theater bathroom and trying to get in and out without being murdered by the demon that lives in the wheelchair-accessible stall (movie theater bathrooms are terrifying, you guys).
Still, an awfully small number of people are doing their due bathroom diligence. Older people are better about washing their hands, most likely because they remember tales of a time not so long ago when people died of easily preventable diseases simply because they had no conception of personal hygiene. The most egregious offenders? Younger men, especially those who had relegated their waste-expelling activities to a urinal. “But pee is sterile, bro, and I wash my penis three times a day in an exfoliating oatmeal bath!” Fine, whatever, but you live in a world with other people. You interact with them, shaking hands or sharing popcorn. There are sinks literally everywhere. It’s a miracle that there’s this much freely flowing water available to you for free. Avail yourself of all that miracle-water and washing your fucking hands.
The art of washing hands has yet to be mastered [USA Today]
Image via Getty, Oleg Nikishin