Clean Hands Report: Americans Get a B- on Hand Hygiene

In the fifth annual Clean Hands Report Card(R) issued by The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), the United States' grade for hand hygiene has risen from a "C-minus" in 2008 to a "B-minus."

The Report Card is based on a series of hygiene-related questions asked of 888 Americans during a telephone survey conducted in August 2009 by Echo Research.

Among the good news from the survey:

  • 50 percent say they wash their hands more than 10 times per day (up from 36 percent).
  • 70 percent wash up at least 7 times per day (up from 62 percent).

Across the board, more Americans claim to always wash their hands before eating lunch, after coughing or sneezing and after using the bathroom.

Among the bad news from survey respondents:

  • Only 37 percent of men are washing their hands 10 times a day.
  • 39 percent seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing (on par with 2008).
  • 46 percent wash their hands for 15 seconds or less (on par with 2008).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and SDA recommend washing with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds.

SDA produces the annual Report Card to raise awareness of International Clean Hands Week, which touts handwashing as the easiest path to staying healthy. Clean Hands Week is sponsored by the Clean Hands Coaliton, an alliance of public and private partners working together to create and support coordinated, sustained initiatives to significantly improve health and save lives through clean hands.

The association has created a virtual, no-cost cold and flu toolkit at

The report card was based on a telephone survey, which queried 888 American heads of households (446 men and 442 women). The independent consumer research study was completed Aug. 21-24, by Echo Research. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

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