What's your handwashing secret? WaterAid's Top 10 for Global Handwashing Day

Posted On: 
13th October 2017

When was the last time you caught someone ducking out of a public toilet – or you yourself sat down at a meal – without washing your hands?

It’s the best disease prevention mechanism there is, yet for 844 million people globally who live without basic access to water, and 2.3 billion without a basic private toilet, handwashing is still a luxury.

For this Global Handwashing Day – October 15 – WaterAid presents some of our favourite facts about handwashing.

WaterAid’s Top Ten Handwashing Facts:

  1. The word ‘hygiene’ comes from the Greek Goddess of health – Hygieia.

(Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hygieia)

  1. Most British adults (84%) don’t wash their hands long enough to get rid of bacteria and viruses – even though it takes only 20 seconds. (Royal Pharmaceutical Society survey, 2017: https://www.rpharms.com/resources/essential-guides/handwashing)
  2. At least one-quarter of men in the UK don’t wash their hands with soap at all after going to the toilet; and 61% of adults don’t wash their hands before eating (WaterAid-YouGov survey, 2016)
  3. Cold water is just as good as hot for washing hands – if less comfortable

(NHS News, from Journal of Food Protection: https://www.nhs.uk/news/lifestyle-and-exercise/cold-water-just-as-good-as-hot-for-handwashing/ )

  1. The typical hand is home to 150 different types of bacteria – and women have a wider variety than men do.

(Colorado University: http://www.colorado.edu/today/2008/11/03/women-have-more-diverse-hand-bacteria-men-according-cu-boulder-study

  1. Just one sick person in an office can infect more than half the office surfaces with their virus – and one of the biggest germ hotspots is the office coffee pot!

(University of Arizona: https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/germs-spread-fast-at-work-study-finds)

  1. Next time you’re on holiday – beware the hotel TV remotes and light switches! They are a leading source of bacteria – with levels up to ten times higher than what’s accepted in hospitals. (New England Journal of Medicine:  http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM197209142871109)
  2. Computer keyboards can contain up to 5 times more germs than a toilet seat

(University of Arizona: https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/germs-spread-fast-at-work-study-finds)

  1. One in six mobile phones is contaminated with faecal matter

(London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2011/mobilephones.html)

  1. Half of all reusable shopping bags contain faecal matter

(University of Arizona: https://arizona.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/assessment-of-the-potential-for-cross-contamination-of-food-produ 2011

WaterAid Global Head of Campaigns Savio Carvalho said:

“We take the ability to wash our hands with soap and water so much for granted here in the UK that many of us will sometimes skip it entirely. Yet this is a luxury for 844 million people without access to water and 2.3 billion without access to sanitation around the world -- including one-third of schools, and one-third of hospitals and clinics in the developing world. We wouldn’t tolerate this here in the UK; we shouldn’t tolerate it anywhere. This Global Handwashing Day, we are calling on governments and donors to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority, and to ensure schools and hospitals are built with access to clean water, basic private toilets and hygiene facilities.”

An estimated 289,000 children under five die each year from diarrhoeal diseases linked to dirty water, poor sanitation and the inability to wash hands with soap.

Through the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, world leaders have promised to ensure everyone everywhere has access to safe water and sanitation by 2030.